Immigration Law Has Its Own March Madness!
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is only authorized to issue a total of 85,000 first-time, cap-subject H-1B visas each U.S. fiscal year. This year, Tuesday, April 1, 2014 is the first day upon which an employer will be allowed to file H-1B petitions for U.S. Fiscal Year 2015; these petitions will carry a start date on or after October 1, 2014 (the first day of U.S. Fiscal Year 2015).
Last year (U.S. Fiscal Year 2014) USCIS received approximately 124,000 petitions for the available 85,000 slots in the first 5 days of April 2013. In accordance with USCIS policies, USCIS resorted to a lottery system in which it selected which 85,000 H-1B petitions would be accepted for filing, and rejected all the rest. Demand this year appears to be at least as high as it was last year, so employers can assume a repeat of this dramatic overflow of petitions.
Based on this situation, there is a critical timing issue with new H petitions. Immigration attorneys are effectively prohibited from submitting H-1B petitions until Monday, March 31, 2014 via overnight mail, for delivery on Tuesday, April 1, 2014; any case filed prior to March 31, 2014 will be denied. Given the incredible demand, it would appear that there may be problems with cases filed after April 1, 2014 as well! As such, employers should use March 31, 2014 as the target date upon which to overnight all H-1B petition packages to the USCIS for filing.
If you are an employer seeking an H-1B for an employee, you should have all H-1B filings (including checks covering the USCIS filing fees) essentially ready for filing prior to the middle of March – this is simply not a process that can be completed in the last few weeks of March. Employers should begin gathering information and documents now.
Note that as part of this preparation, employers must factor in the Department of Labor's Labor Condition Application (LCA) process. The LCA must be approved prior to the filing of the H-1B petition, and DOL typically takes 7 or 8 days to approve an LCA.