The H-1B visa category is used by employers hiring a foreign national in a professional level position (“specialty occupation”) requiring at least a Bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. This year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) will begin accepting H-1B petitions on April 1, 2010, with a start date of October 1, 2010 (FY 2011). There is an annual cap of 65,000 new H-1B petitions permitted per fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 H-1B’s available for foreign nationals who have earned a U.S. Master’s degree or higher, who are exempt from the H-1B cap.

While last year the H-1B cap was not reached until December 2009, it is anticipated that the quota will be reached earlier this year given the cautious signs of an economic recovery. Consequently, it is advisable to file an H-1B petition by April 1st or as soon as possible thereafter. A delaying factor in meeting this filing deadline is that the first step of the process, the Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) filed with the Department of Labor (“DOL”), is currently taking approximately seven days to be certified or longer.

Petitions for new H-1B employment are exempt from the annual cap if the foreign national will work at an institution of higher education or related or affiliated nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations. Typically, H-1B petitions are filed for foreign nationals hired from abroad, or for F-1 and/or J-1 students who are currently working in the U.S. pursuant to student status work authorization.

If you have any questions regarding the H-1B process, please contact Jacqueline Lentini McCullough at jacki@lentinivisas.com , or +630-262-1435.