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Mark Your Calendars: H-1B Fiscal Year 2020 Season Is Right Around the Corner

Want to hire a skilled foreign worker? Don't delay, act now!

The H-1B visa allows companies in the United States to temporarily hire foreign workers in occupations requiring the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and a bachelor's degree or higher.

The H-1B filing season for FY 2020 starts April 1, 2019, for employers that wish to sponsor a full-time H-1B employee during the fiscal year—which runs from October 1, 2019, to September 30, 2020.

Typically, the filing window for H-1B visas is open for just one week, as the quantity of petitions received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) quickly exceeds the amount of available visas. Last year, USCIS reached the cap within five days, receiving more than 94,000 petitions by April 6, 2018.

To file an H-1B petition, employers must first obtain a certified labor condition application (LCA) from the Department of Labor (DOL), which contains wage and location information about the proposed employment. Employers should allow sufficient time to obtain a certified LCA as the process currently takes seven to 10 days. It is highly recommended that employers obtain a certified LCA by March 15, 2019, to ensure the H-1B petition is filed timely on April 1.

Every year, USCIS grants 65,000 new H-1B visas. In addition, USCIS grants 20,000 new H-1B visas for employees with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. H-1B visas are granted for three-year periods to eligible foreign workers and are renewable for up to six years. Employees with H-1B visas are authorized to work only for the petitioning employer.

USCIS uses a random selection process, or "lottery," to determine which petitions will be accepted for consideration. Once all the available visas have been granted, no new H-1B petitions will be accepted until April 1, 2020. Employers should assess their workforce needs well in advance of April 1, 2019, in order to determine whether they want to hire a foreign worker who will require an H-1B visa in order to be eligible for employment in the United States.

For example, many employers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—or STEM—field hire students who are foreign nationals who have recently graduated from U.S. universities. The work authorization associated with student visas is temporary, however, and many employers wish to retain these individuals on a longer-term basis. In order to do so, employers often file H-1B petitions on behalf of those foreign nationals.

Indeed, the H-1B petition requires information from the employer and the employee, so the parties must work together to prepare the petition. Employers should have all their petition documents ready by March 29, 2019, so they can be filed on April 1, 2019.

The April 1 filing window does not apply to employees who are extending or transferring their current H-1B status. It also does not apply to "cap-exempt" employers, including government research groups, institutions of higher learning, and nonprofits.

Employers interested in filing an H-1B petition, or uncertain whether the April 1, 2019, filing window applies, should contact counsel promptly.

Copyright © by Ballard Spahr LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 42

About this Author

Jessica Federico, attorney, Ballard Spahr Law Firm, Minneapolis, MN

Jessica Federico is dedicated to providing advice to employers who are navigating the challenging and ever-changing landscape of employment law. She counsels employers on defense of discrimination claims, wage and hour disputes, employee termination, internal I-9 audits, and filing petitions for employment-based immigrant and non-immigrant visas.

Prior to law school Jessica worked for several legal services providers in the Twin Cities, assisting immigrants in removal of defense, family based immigration, and humanitarian relief.


Maya Salah, Associate

Maya Salah is a member of Ballard Spahr's Labor and Employment Group as well as its White Collar Defense/Internal Investigations practice. She advises national and international clients on employment and business immigration matters, focusing her practice on employment-based immigration, I-9 audits, and corporate immigration compliance.

Her primary areas of focus are in: 

  • Litigation. 
  • Labor and employment. 
  • White collar defense. 
  • Internal investigations. 

Some of Maya's professional accomplishments include being recognized as...

Brain Pedrow, Ballard Spahr law firm, employment, labor, and employee benefit dispute lawyer

Brian D. Pedrow is the Practice Leader of Ballard Spahr's Labor and Employment Group. He represents employers and management in the full scope of matters related to employment, labor, and employee benefit disputes. Mr. Pedrow's practice includes all facets of employment-related litigation, such as discrimination, harassment, retaliation, breach of contract, and employment-based torts. He also has a significant practice representing benefit plans, fiduciaries, and plan sponsors in Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) litigation arising from benefits eligibility...