When Is the Best Time to Apply for an H-1B Employee Visa?
The H-1B visa is valid for three years, with an optional three-year extension, and provides the employee with the opportunity to apply for a Green Card if sponsored by the employer. Accordingly, because the H-1B visa can last for 6 years (and even longer under some circumstances), the H-1B visa is one of the most popular ways for foreign professionals obtain a work visa, and ultimately, a Green Card in the United States.
Applicants apply for the visa on April 1, and the soonest they could work is the following October. Many applicants survive this waiting time by working on Optional Practical Training (OPT) through their F-1 student visa so that they can gain experience at the employer and remain in legal status in the US during the six months while their case is being processed.
In order to be as competitive as possible, applications should be completed by mid-March so that they can be sent via courier and arrive at USCIS on the morning of April 1. We recommend starting H-1B case preparation in December/January so that all bases are covered during this short window of time. Keep in mind, as applicants can only apply for an H-1B once a year, law firms will be processing numerous applications at once. To get the most attention from your firm, and to put your best application forward, contact an attorney early on so your application can be one of the first ones the firm prepares.
One of the most important factors that distinguishes the H-1B visa from other visas is the fact that applications exceed the number of visas available. For the past several years, USCIS has instituted a lottery system to narrow down the number of applications to 85,000 (65,000 for Bachelor’s Degrees or higher and an additional 20,000 for Master’s Degrees). Last season, by only April 6, 2018, USCIS reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 visa H-1B cap for fiscal year 2019. USCIS began accepting applications on Monday, April 2, and reached its cap within just four days. It rejected and returned the filing fees for all unselected cap-subject petitions that were not duplicate filings.
Will the H-1B Lottery Change in 2019?
In an attempt to change the lottery system for H-1B applications, The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a rule that would require all H-1B petitioners to pre-register online for the H-1B lottery prior to submitting their H-1B filings. According to the proposed rule, only those H-1B petitions that have been selected in the lottery could then be submitted for the adjudication by USCIS. The rule is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OBM), which is the first step toward implementing such changes.
Other proposed changes would benefit applicants with Master’s Degrees by adding them to the initial round of 65,000 Bachelor’s Degree applicant visa spots lottery. Then, if there are any Master’s Degree applications left over after the initial lottery round, the remaining Master’s Degree applications will be added to the lottery for the remaining 20,000 Master’s Degree cap.
Tips for Preparing a Successful H-1B Application
In order to cut through the competition, we provide the following application recommendations:
Organize Your Application to It’s Easy for the Visa Officer to Review
There are many nuances and requirements that a good application must have, including a detailed cover letter, employer letter, biographical and employment documents, Table of Contents, and sophisticated aesthetic presentation. This is not the time for trial and error, as one mistake can mean that your application is denied and you have to wait until next year to apply, effectively meaning that you would not be able to start working for at least another year from the time you receive a rejection (i.e. October 2020). In this case when your life, career, and the lives of your immediate family members may be on the line, “do it right the first time” with the expertise and guidance of an experienced immigration attorney.
2. Make Your Application as Comprehensive as Possible
Remember, this is the time to be a perfectionist! Start collecting documents now so that you have as much documentation as possible to support the fact that you are qualified for the position. Now is the time to dig up those transcripts and diplomas, to update your resume, and to revise your Job Description.
3. Take the Requests for Evidence (RFE) Seriously
If an application makes it past the lottery stage and is reviewed by a visa officer, it is common that the applicant will receive a Requests for More Evidence (RFE). This means that before a visa officer can make a determination on your case, he or she will request specific evidence to convince him or her to approve your application.
Do not fret if you receive an RFE: look at it as an opportunity to continue proving your case. Provide as much evidence as you can to show the officer that you can meet his or her concerns. Also, submit your RFE responses as soon as possible and in advance of the deadline, because
Are you interested in applying for the H-1B visa? Schedule a call with us to determine whether you are eligible for this popular visa.
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This article is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. This article does not make any guarantees as to the outcome of a particular matter, as each matter has its own set of circumstances and must be evaluated individually by a licensed attorney.
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