Each year, the date of April 1st is hotly anticipated by immigration attorneys and our clients due to the rush to submit applications for H-1B visas.
What is an H-1B visa?
An H-1B visa is a non-immigrant employment visa that is valid for a three-year period, beginning on October 1st, the start of the fiscal year for U.S Citizenship and Immigration Service (U.S.C.I.S.). April 1st is the first day that an employer may submit a petition on behalf of a worker for the following October 1st start date. In order to apply, an employer must show that the intended beneficiary has a college degree in a particular specialty, will be working in a field that requires their skills, and that they will pay the prevailing wage for the industry and location to that employee if they are approved for the visa.
What is the H-1B lottery?
There are 65,000 visas available each year, and another 20,000 visas that are reserved for employees who have received Masters Degrees inside the United States. Due to the high demand for the H-1B, the U.S.C.I.S. uses a lottery system to determine which petitions will be accepted. Usually the chances of winning the H-1B lottery are determined by the number of applications received in the first five business days of the application period.
Why is that a bad thing?
Most of the applicants for H-1B visas are graduates of U.S. universities. When we do not make these visas available to talented individuals that we have trained, we lose out on our investment in their education. The diverse skills of these applicants are sorely needed to boost productivity in for U.S. companies and studies have shown that for each new high-tech job, an additional five jobs are added to the U.S. economy.1 Also, this visa does not hurt U.S. workers, since employers are not allowed to treat H-1B employees better or worse than U.S. workers and are required to make certifications to this effect with the Department of Labor and U.S.C.I.S.
How did it go this year?
Within the first five days of the FY 2016 H-1B season, the U.S.C.I.S. received over 230,000 applications for the available visas. That means that applicants have roughly a 35% chance of their petitions being accepted and processed by USCIS. All other applicants will have their petitions and fees returned and those employers will have to make alternate arrangements to fill those positions. Attorneys and employers are currently waiting to see if their fees were accepted by U.S.C.I.S., which is one of the first indicators of acceptance in the lottery.
How can we change this process?
If you are a U.S. citizen, or even better, a U.S. citizen who owns a business affected by the H-1B cap, you should contact your elected officials in the U.S. Congress and tell them that we need to raise the cap and make more H-1B visas available.
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