Important News for H-1B Visa Applicants

A number of recent announcements have been made by the USCIS regarding the H-1B visa. A new initiative by the USCIS will save businesses considerable money on H-1 B visa applications. H-1B visas allow US employer to hire non-US workers with technical or theoretical experience and training in specialty occupations. Typically, these visas are used to allow professionals such as engineers, scientists, and other professionals to immigrate to and work in the US. In March 2011, the USCIS announced a new registration system which would allow employers to apply for the visas electronically and in advance. The USCIS estimates that the proposed system might save US businesses up to $23 million over the next decade.

As well, as of 1 April 2011, USCIS will begin accepting applications for H-1B visas for the year 2012. For that year, the maximum number of H-1B visas that will be issued is 65,000. The first 20 000 applications submitted in behalf of US Master’s degree program graduates will not be counted towards this cap. As well, others may be exempt from the cap as well, such as those visa holders who will be working for nonprofit research groups, institutes of higher learning, or government research organizations. Employees who wish to file H-1B applications need to do so quickly, as once the final receipt date arrives, meaning that once the cap has been reached, the USCIS will not accept further applications until the next fiscal year.

In March 2011, the USCIS also announced that it is reviewing its exemptions for some H-1B visa applications, specifically those that are exempt from the numerical cap because a beneficiary will work for a nonprofit affiliated with an institute of higher learning. While the USCIS reviews this exemption, interim procedures will be applied to all applications made on behalf of such workers.