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‘Tis the season for companies to begin preparing their applications for sponsoring highly skilled foreign nationals for work authority! 

Do you have a foreign student worker whom you’d like to continue to employ for years beyond graduation?

Do you have a recent graduate from a foreign country whom you would like to continue to employ?

Have you identified an overseas skilled worker for work in the U.S.?

If any of these situations is applicable to your company then you will need to apply for an H-1B visa in the first week of April to even have a chance at obtaining work authority for this promising recruit.  It is hard to predict what will happen in 2018 and beyond given the new direction on immigration policy from Washington, but any changes to the H-1B program are likely to be disadvantageous to businesses and the foreign workers they are looking to sponsor. Applying in 2017 for 2018 visas is advisable.


First, the annual allotment of visas is 65,000, plus an additional 20,000 for prospective employees who obtained their Master’s Degree from a U.S. university. Note that 6,800 of the visas from the pool of 65,000 are set aside for residents of Singapore and Chile.

Second, the annual allotment begins to be distributed on October 1. Applications, however, begin on April 1. Applications received sooner are rejected, so timing is important.

Third, in recent years applications for H-1B visas have exceeded the annual allotment within the first week. When this happens the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) utilizes a lottery system to randomly select applications to be reviewed.  The chances of being selected in the lottery vary from year to year based on the number of applications, but commonly the odds are 1:2 to 1:4 of being selected. Nothing you do can improve your odds. If sufficient applications have been received during the first week of April, no further applications will be accepted and you will have to wait until the following April to apply. 

Finally, the cap only applies for new H-1B visa applications. If you are looking to hire someone who has already been granted an H-1B visa (in the past 6-years), you can apply at any time.  

Please call with any questions regarding H-1B visas.

Thompson Coe and myHRgenius Tip of the Week is not intended as a solicitation, does not constitute legal advice, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.


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Kevin M. Mosher

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