As of April 1st 2013, United States Customs and Immigration (USCIS) will begin to accept H1-B applications valid for the 2013 Fiscal Year that begins on October 1st. Despite calls to increase the number of visas available, especially for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates from US universities, there remain only 65, 000 available. There are an additional 20, 000 visas available for graduates who have earned a Masters degree or higher from a US institution.
Although applications will be accepted on April 1st, it is anticipated that demand will exceed the 65,000 available and the quota be filled by April 5th. This will result in a visa lottery; something that has not occurred since 2008. USCIS has announced that it will inform the public when the quota has been reached. It has also modified the date for those who have elected for premium processing, until April 15th.
The urgency to prepare the necessary documentation required for the H1-B application NOW cannot be expressed enough.
All applications are subject to an initial filing with the Department of Labor (DOL) before filing an application with USCIS, is permitted.
Anyone wishing to apply for the visa should regard this consideration as a call to action and move forward immediately, if they are to be considered as a viable candidate for the H1-B visa. Also, in order maximize success and a timely filing, those wishing to apply are advised to consult with a reputable and experienced attorney, with knowledge of the complicated process involved.
Only those working for non-profit organizations that are affiliated to private schools or institutes of higher learning, are exempt from the quota. Anyone who is already in possession of an H1-B and currently working and resides in the US, are also considered exempt.
The H1-B visa is highly desirable since it is a six-year visa that can be additionally renewed annually, thereafter, provided that an application for alien labor certification has been filed, at least 1 year prior to the expiration of the sixth year. Simultaneously, the applicant is permitted to seek permanent residence or “Green-Card,” status and eventually citizenship, should they so choose.
The process is considered somewhat dysfunctional, especially for employers whom are forced to anticipate the numbers of employees, six months prior to any expansion or contraction of normal business.
Students who are currently engaged in Optional Practical Training (OPT) are also affected by the quota; although are granted extensions of OPT status, until the October 1st H1-B visa takes effect.