When is the H1B filing deadline?
Each year in April, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting H1B petitions for foreign professionals to apply to work in the US. But companies seeking to employ H1B foreign workers should be aware that H1B applications are subject to an annual cap, and the window for applications is open for only a brief period.
For prospective H1B employers and employees alike, this means applications require planning and preparation to meet the required criteria and collate the documentary support, ensuring the petition is filed on time and ahead of the H1B filing deadline.
The H1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa for workers with specialty skills who typically hold an advanced degree.
Each H1B visa applicant must be ‘sponsored’ by a US employer – the petitioner – that holds an approved Labor Condition Application.
The employer has to prove a need for a specialty worker as the minimum requirement for taking up the job on offer.
The H1B visa is valid for three years and may be extended for another three years. The employer may later sponsor the H1B holder for a green card.
This visa category is notoriously over-subscribed and competitive. Where numbers outweigh the number of H1Bs available, a ‘lottery’ will follow to determine which applications are successful.
When can you submit H1B applications?
The H1B ‘season’ starts April 1st, with the window opening 6 months in advance of the start of the fiscal year October 1st. The H1B application window is typically only open for the first 5 business days of April.
The USCIS announces the date that they will begin deciding petitions filed, including those with premium processing, each year.
Because of the highly competitive nature of the H1B visa application process, it is important to submit the H1B petitions as soon as the window opens.
This requires careful preparation well. Identify the H1B applications that you will need to make, complete the forms and compile the required documentation, all ready to be submitted with the USCIS and the Department of Labor.
Importantly, errors or omissions in any submission are likely to result in missing out in this year’s allocation, and having to wait for the next year to resubmit.
What is the H-1B visa cap?
For the fiscal year 2021, or April 1, 2020 filing, the H1B cap totals 85,000 petitions. USCIS will first randomly select 20,000 H1B cases for foreign nationals who possess a U.S. Master’s degree or higher from a qualifying non-profit or public higher education institution.
Thereafter, USCIS will randomly select 65,000 H1B petitions, of which reserved for citizens of Singapore and Chile: 6,800
Who can apply for an H1B visa?
H1B visas are granted to foreign professionals in specialty occupations which typically require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Qualified positions include roles in:
- Data communications
View the full USCIS list here.
There are circumstances where you may be exempt from the annual cap:
- You may qualify for the Master’s cap if you received your degree from a US-based institution that is public or non-profit in nature and has been recognized by a national accrediting agency as being accredited.
- If you have been counted against the cap in prior years and haven’t reached the maximum 6-year limit then you may qualify for an exemption.
- Existing H1B visa holders who are seeking to transfer to another company are not subject to the cap.
- If the petition is filed by a non-profit organization or institute of higher learning.
How much does the H1B visa application cost?
There are a number of fees due as part of the H1B application.
Note however that H1B filing fees must be paid by the petitioning employer – and not the beneficiary. Penalties can ensure where an employer has not fulfilled this requirement, including revocation of the H1B visa.
This does not apply to the premium processing fee, under certain conditions.
- Base filing fee: $325 per petition
- Electronic filing fee: $10 per petition
- AICWA fee: $750 for employers with 1 to 25 full time employees; $1,500 for employers with 26 or more full time equivalent employees
- Fraud prevent & detection fee: $500 – only applies to new H1Bs and change of employers petitions
- Fee based on Public Law 114-113: $4000 – applicable, if 50 or more employees and more than 50% of employees are on H1B or L1 Visa status, required for new H-1B filing and change of employers.
- Premium processing fee (optional) – $1,225 – for faster adjudication within 15 calendar days. As per this year’s press release, USCIS will consider the 15 day clock from starting from no later than May 16th.
You should also factor in legal advice fess from an immigration attorney.
Tips for making an H1B application
Get your submission right
Once you’ve completed the submission, check and check again! Include all the information that’s requested including evidence that the employer can pay the required salary. Missing information or forgetting to sign a section can result in issues with your application.
Employers can’t increase their chances of being selected by submitting duplicate petitions for the same individual. Duplicate petitions filed by an employer for one individual will be refused. Individuals, however, are permitted to submit multiple applications in respect of multiple employers. This includes where the individual intends to work part-time.
Meet the application criteria
Ensure you meet the eligibility requirements, and have sufficient evidence to prove your suitability. Individuals are required to hold a degree, and this must relate in some logical sense to the specialty position(s) being applied for.
Be ready to push the button on the day the H1B window opens in April
Prepare your applications well in advance. Avoid the rush of completing forms and compiling supporting evidence. The annual window opens in the of April, typically April 1st if this is a business day. Double-check the opening date for the year you are applying.
Have a ‘plan B’
Have you considered alternative visa options to the H1B in the event you are not successful in the lottery?
NNU Immigration can help
NNU Immigration are specialist US immigration attorneys based in London, UK. We work with employers and individuals seeking to secure a visa to work in the USA, including the H-1B visa route. We can advise on all aspects of the eligibility requirements and can guide applicants through the petitioning process, including advice on the H-1B filing deadline and meeting the strict timescales.
If you have a question about the H-1B visa, speak to our experts.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.
Last updated: 13 December 2019