U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting employers’ petitions for H1-B visas on April 1, possibly setting off a relative stampede of applications for documents that will allow highly skilled foreigners to start working in the United States in October.
H1-B visas allow organizations to hire workers from other nations to fill certain “professional” and “specialty occupation” positions. Employers often use the visa program to hire software developers, engineers, financial analysts, project managers and other workers with advanced skills. H1-B visa holders must have at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.
Employers that file H1-B visa petitions are effectively offering to “sponsor” a particular foreign worker. Employees who enter the country under an H1-B visa must go to work for an employer that has filed a petition.
The USCIS web site offers detailed petition information, along with downloadable petition forms.
USCIS makes 65,000 H1-B visas available each year, plus an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have earned graduate degrees from U.S. colleges and universities.
In years past, USCIS reached its quota of H1-B visas within a week of the petition deadline. Last year, however, companies struggling through the sluggish economy held off on hiring foreign workers. Slots remained open until December 2009.
Don’t count on a repeat this year. With the business climate improving and hiring headed up in several tech industries, experts believe petitions will be snapped up much more quickly.
The April 1 petition filing deadline is for employment beginning in fiscal year 2011, which begins on Oct. 1, 2010.
To do right now: Start evaluating your H1-B visa needs. Poll executives and managers to find out their hiring plans for positions that could be filled with H1-B candidates.
You’ll need that data to begin completing a Labor Conditions Application for each position. That’s a form that the U.S. Department of Labor must approve before employers can file H1-B visa petitions.
Employers can download copies of the Labor Conditions Applications form here.
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