Amid Potential Changes, Employers Prepare for H-1B Filing Season 2018

April 1 deadlineApril 1 deadline

With changes in late 2017, many employers are gearing up for H-1B season on April 1, 2018. The H-1B visa allows foreign nationals to work in occupations that require at least a U.S. Bachelor’s Degree (or foreign equivalent) in a specific academic field. The H-1B visa is one of the most sought after employment visas because it provides a natural spring board to an employer-sponsored green card.

Immigration regulations limit the number of H-1B visas available each year to 85,000 with 20,000 available slots set aside for individuals holding at least a U.S. Master’s Degree. The H-1B visa is so popular that USCIS has historically received more applications than there are available visas. As a result, USCIS implements a random lottery system to determine which petitions are adjudicated. The filing period for H-1B visas opens on April 1st each year. This year, because April 1st falls on a Sunday, USCIS will start accepting applications on April 2, 2018. Because the H-1B category is oversubscribed, the filing period is normally open for five (5) business days commencing on April 1, 2018. Last year, USCIS received nearly 200,000 H-1B visa petitions during the filing period.

The Trump administration has indicated a number of changes may be coming to the H-1B program. Potential changes include requiring a test of the labor market to ensure no qualified U.S. workers are available for the H-1B position as a prerequisite to filing. Additional changes may include giving highly educated or highly paid foreign nationals preference in the H-1B lottery.

Certain employers—including institutions of higher education and entities that are affiliated with institutions of higher education—as well as current H-1B visa holders seeking to extend their status are exempt from the annual H-1B cap. Last February, USCIS announced it would temporarily discontinue the Premium Processing Service for all H-1B petitions from April 1st until mid-September. As a result, H-1B cap-exempt filers scrambled in March to take advantage of the guaranteed fifteen (15) day expedited adjudication to avoid work and/or travel plan disruption.

With the April 1, 2018 filing deadline looming and the potential for another suspension of Premium Processing, employers should assess their workforce needs now. H-1B petition preparation takes time, as certain regulatory steps must be followed to ensure a successful filing.

Employers should contact counsel now to assess potential H-1B filing strategies and plan for the upcoming H-1B filing period. For questions on H-1B visas or other employment based immigration options, contact Melissa Azallion (MAzallion@mcnair.net) or Jonathan Eggert (JEggert@mcnair.net) from McNair’s immigration team at (843) 785-2171.

About the Author

Melissa L. Azallion
Melissa L. Azallion
Melissa Azallion has more than 20 years of experience advising clients on business immigration and labor and employment law issues. Click here to read more.

About the Author

Jon Eggert
Jon Eggert
Jonathan Eggert has experience assisting and advising clients on business immigration and labor and employment issues in a wide range of industries, including higher education, healthcare, hospitality, and manufacturing.