In light of recent reports of proposed changes to the H-1B work visa program by the Trump administration, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has confirmed several important details about the upcoming H-1B visa filing season, which will commence on April 2, 2018. Most importantly, USCIS intends for the H-1B filing process and procedures to remain the same as it has in previous years. This is to say that there will be no “preregistration system” and if the petitions received by USCIS exceed the 85,000 numerical cap, a lottery will be used to select the petitions for processing. USCIS also hinted that they may impose a “short” suspension of “premium processing” for H-1B cap petitions (but not non-cap H-1B petitions), as they did last year.
Employers and foreign nationals seeking to work in the U.S. should nevertheless start preparing their H-1B visa petitions NOW. Demand by U.S. employers for H-1B visas on behalf of “highly-skilled” foreign employees will once again be high, as a result of skill shortages, a strong economy, and reports of possible changes to visa programs in the future. Employers should therefore anticipate that the 85,000 available H-1B visas will be gone within the first week of April. Due to prerequisite filing steps, however, which must be completed before the H-1B petition can be submitted to USCIS, employers should begin preparing their petitions NOW to ensure they are ready to submit on April 2nd.
Therefore, employers should assess their upcoming workforce needs and identify whether any foreign national employees will require H-1B visa sponsorship. These individuals may include:
- New graduating foreign students in the U.S.
- Overseas individuals seeking to start work in the U.S.
- Foreign individuals in the U.S. already working under a different nonimmigrant status for a different employer and are seeking to change jobs
Employers who fail to file their H-1B petitions on April 2nd may jeopardize their chance at securing an H-1B visa for their employee. After the 2018 H-1B visas are gone, employers will have to wait until April 1, 2019 to file H-1B petitions again, and foreign employees may lose their lawful status and authorization to work.
Given the ever changing high-skilled immigration landscape, employers and foreign nationals should use this opportunity to ensure they are prepared to secure their visas.