UPDATE: H-1B Cap Season for FY 2015-16 is over! Check out “The Complete Guide on H-1B Visa 2016-17 News, Quota, Lottery Predictions“
The U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting petitions on the 1st of April 2015 for the following fiscal year (FY16) but that doesn’t mean you should put it off until then. Taking a proactive approach when it comes to prepping is helpful in addressing any problems that may arise and leaves adequate time to resolve them before the official window opens.
Past H-1B Visa Seasons
As most of you have already heard, the H-1B visa 2015 quota was reached within the first few days after opening. In total, the H-1B 2015 season was open for 5 days. According to the cap season regulations, five days is the minimum filing period for cap cases so if there happen to be additional spots available after the initial five days then it will remain open until they are filled.
The U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services (USCIS) received approximately 172,500 H-1B petitions (nearly twice those available under the cap) and significantly more than those received in FY 14 (125,000). Last year, the computer generated lottery drew from the overwhelming numbers to select 65,000 petitions towards the 2014-2015 regular quota. Many individuals wondered if they could increase their chances of being selected by submitting their petitions on the first day but as the process demonstrated, all petitions received from April 1-7 had equal chances of being selected. Although that’s not to say that you should procrastinate with filing.
DID YOU MISS THE H-1B SEASON FOR FY 15? IF SO, YOU SHOULD START PLANNING FOR THE H-1B 2016 FISCAL YEAR NOW!
What is the Quota Cap Count?
The H-1B quota cap count, by definition, is the maximum number of petitions that the USCIS will accept for a year to offer temporary work eligibility to foreign professionals in specialty occupations. These occupations include accountants, pharmacists, market and financial analysts, engineers and a number of other specialty fields. To be eligible, however, both the U.S. employer and worker must adhere to the USCIS H-1B visa position and education requirements.
Of the petitions received for 2015, 65,000 were randomly selected to fulfill the quota cap count. As of right now, the current fiscal year cap count is as follows:
- 65,000 for Regular H-1B Quota
- 20,000 H-1B Masters Degree Quota (limited to U.S. Degrees)
- From the aforementioned total, 6,800 are reserved for citizens of Singapore and Chile based on the free trade agreement.
It’s necessary to note, however, that there may be significant changes to these number as part of the immigration reform. For your benefit, stay current with the H-1B visa 2015-16 process.
H-1B 2016 Lottery–The Planning Process
Often times the most challenging part is identifying the correct steps. While it’s always best to consult an immigration attorney for H-1B visa 2015-16 news, here are some general guidelines.
- Students on F-1 visas in the U.S.: If you fall in this category, you should start planning for an internship or optional practical training (OPT) employment with an H-1B sponsor as soon as possible for FY 2016. Since it may take time to identify an appropriate sponsor, it may be helpful to check a nationwide database. The goal is to get a few offers from companies, if possible. That way you can have room to negotiate before selecting one.
- Currently L-1 or other visa status: If you currently in the U.S. on another visa status but are anticipating to petition for H-1B FY 2016, begin planning around December 2014 at the latest because you need ample time to ascertain all documents and paperwork (i.e., degrees, certificates, experience credentials, letters, etc.)
Possible H-1B Visa Changes Due to the Immigration Reform
There was a lottery for both H-1B FY 2014 and 2015, so does that mean there will be one for 2016? While the official details haven’t been formally released yet, it is safe to assume that if the H-1B quota and demand do not increase then there will likely be another lottery for the coming year. Once that information is released, we will provide updated information.
Other individuals have speculated that there may be the proposed changes as part of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform:
- Increased H-1B cap from 65,000 to 110,000.
- Increased advanced degree cap from 20,000 to 25,000
- Increased H-1B filing fee
- Supplemental H-1B rules in an effort to prevent H-1B visa fraud
[Note that these are just proposed rules that were first discussed in 2013. None of which have been confirmed for 2016. If anything changes, we will keep you informed with H-1B visa 2015-16 news.]
Has My Case Been Accepted?
We understand that the waiting period can be a very stressful time for you and your family, which is why we do our best to keep you informed of any developments with your case. In past H-1B seasons, the USCIS has been relatively prompt with sending email receipts for approval notices and even acknowledging those who have not been selected in the lottery. The foremost way to stay current with H-1B visa 2015-16 news is to work side-by-side with an experienced immigration attorney.
Advantages of Early Preparation
It never hurts to start prepping for your case, and in fact we advise you to. Employers can also start considering which one of their workers may require H-1B cap-subject filings. Typically these individuals are recent grads working on F1 OPT. Otherwise, for multinational companies this could include L-1B workers approaching their 5-year mark on their L-1B visas. It is an employer’s responsibility to determine the needs of their workforce for 2016 and start gathering necessary documents for H-1B petitions. With that being said, the responsibility doesn’t fall entirely on the employer. Foreign nationals should work side-by-side with these employers to address their H-1B filing needs. Waiting last-minute is never a good course of action to take because then it’s harder to correct issues that arise. With that said, stay on top of H-1B visa 2015-16 news.
H-1B Visa Challenges Exclusive to Startups and Small Businesses
While the H-1B application is awaiting approval, some challenges may arise for small companies and the water can get a bit murky, for lack of a better term. The USCIS must acknowledge that the petitioning employer has sufficient cash flow and has the policies in place to pay an employee the wages outlined in the LCA. Larger corporations rarely have problems demonstrating this characteristic, however smaller companies may not meet these qualifications during their beginning stages of operations. Having said that, if the startup meets the criteria they still must pay the fees associated with H-1B petitions which can cost thousands of dollars, not including lawyer fees.
Conflicts for Founders and Co-Founders
Additional challenges arise when the petitioning employee doubles as the startup founder or co-founder because the USCIS requires the employee to have a distinct employer/employee relationship with the company. This obviously isn’t the case if the employer and employee are one and the same so the startup must prove that there is a separate Board of Directors with the power to hire, supervise and pay that individual. This sort of internal checks and balances is one way to still obtain an H-1B visa.
H-1B Visa 2015-16 News, Quota, Lottery FAQs
How do I locate an H-1B Sponsor?
There are a number of ways to get sponsored by a company for an H-1B visa. Some of these options include searching through sponsoring company databases, starting with an internship and progressing to visa sponsorship and channels through American based universities. A list of H-1B sponsors is published quarterly on behalf of the Labor Department. Another option at your disposal is to search through employment sites. There, you can conduct a more specific search with your personal information. An unofficial list of H-1B sponsors from recent years can be found here. [Disclaimer: We take no responsibility for inaccuracies of unofficial data sources.]
What are the H-1B Visa Fees?
When filing an H-1B petition, the petitioner and/or sponsoring employer is responsible for the following fees due to the USCIS:
- Filing fee
- Fraud prevention and detection fees
- Premium processing fee (if selected)
- Employer Sponsorship fee
Other fees may be applicable to your situation or case. To determine the specifics, consult with a professional and inquire about H-1B visa 2015-16 news.
What fees are my employer specifically responsible for?
By law, the employer is supposed to pay the training fee (if applicable) and the fraud fee. If the employer tell you that you are responsible for all USCIS fees, be aware that this is not prohibited and you should not enter into a reimbursement agreement with them.
If I already have H-1B visa status but change to a new company am I subject to the cap?
Not necessarily but it’s important that your attorney indicates your current visa status on the forms by marking “Change of employer-not subject to cap.”
If I file under premium processing, am I subject to the cap?
You are subject to it because premium process is simply a quicker way of getting processed so if you’re applying for the first time, the cap does apply to you.
Can I have more than one H-1B sponsors?
Based on current regulations, if a nonimmigrant worker intends to perform services for multiple employers than each one is required to file their own petition. If that individuals has received two approved petitions and chosen to work with an employer but later decides to leave that employer and work with the second one, no new petition is required.
Is there anyway to expedite an H-1B transfer?
A typical H-1B transfer must undergo the same process as filing for a new petition since each one is specific to the employer. The major difference is that a transfer is not subject to the cap since that person already holds H-1B status. To speed things up, USCIS offers premium processes which ensures that the USCIS takes action within 15 days of receiving your documentation.
Why do some H-1B petitions take longer than others?
If two H-1B petitions are filed at the same time, there’s no guarantee that they will be approved within the same time frame. This is because each USCIS service center has a different workload so it’s hard to predict when the paperwork will be addressed. As previously mentioned, premium processing is an option to consider for rush cases.
With H-1B status, am I permitted to work for my employer anywhere in the U.S?
When you receive approval for H-1B status, the USCIS has taken into consideration the specific location of employment noted on the application as well as the qualifications of the employer specifying that they will comply with the prevailing wage for that area. If at some point the work site changes, you are required to submit an amendment which includes certification of the new location. Of course, in some cases you may be exempt from submitting an amended petition but it’s best to consult with an attorney before taking any course of action.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
SGM Law Group’s team of qualified attorneys are knowledgeable in all areas relating to H-1B petitioning as well as other visa statuses. We can help you avoid mistakes during the filing process and ensure that the proper care and attention is given to your case. When you choose our immigration attorneys you can be assured that your case will be treated with the utmost commitment and professionalism. We have a proven track record with even the most complex H-1B cases and charge a very competitive flat fee for H-1B filings. Stay up-to-date on all H-1B visa 2015-16 news by frequently checking our site or contacting us for a consultation!