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FY 2017 H-1B Season Begins Now

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FY 2017 H-1B Season Begins Now

January 14, 2016

Starting April 1, the USCIS will begin accepting H-1B petitions from American employers hoping to nab some of the 85,000 new H-1Bs available for Fiscal Year 2017.  As it did last year, barring any surprise Congressional action the USCIS will grant 65,000 new H-1B visas, with an additional 20,000 for U.S. advanced degree (masters or higher) graduates.

H-1B Lottery

Without a doubt, there will be another H-1B lottery this April as we anticipate many more than 85,000 requests.  By regulation, an H-1B lottery will include all petitions received within the first five days of April. For Fiscal Year 2016, the USCIS received 233,000 petitions within those initial five days.  During last year’s lottery, however, the H-4 EAD rule for spouses of H-1Bs had not yet taken effect.  It’s possible that demand for H-1Bs will not be as high as last year, though the economy and professional jobs outlook is strong.

The USCIS will hold a computer-generated random lottery first for the 20,000 H-1Bs set aside for US advanced degree graduates, then enter any unselected advanced degree holders into the lottery for the 65,000 general cap category.

Last year, the random computer-generated lottery was held in mid-April, and winners were notified gradually through late summer.  The USCIS notified US employers if they had not been selected for one of the 85,000 H-1B visas between May and July. 

Getting Ready for the Lottery

Employers should identify over the next several weeks all employees and potential employees who will require a new H-1B:

  • New college hires
  • Current employees holding post-completion practical training work authorization, particularly those EADs expiring before October 1, 2017
  • Overseas employees likely to be given a US assignment and for whom an L-1 visa may not be an option
  • L-1B visa holders who may not complete the green card process before their 5 year maximum stay
  • TN visa holders who will begin the green card process in the next 18 months
  • Lateral H-1B hires from academic or nonprofit research institutions who were never counted against the cap

Before filing the H-1B petition, employers must obtain approval from the Department of Labor (DOL) of a Labor Condition Application (LCA). Currently the DOL is taking about 7 days to approve LCAs, but this processing time may increase as we get closer to April 1. In addition, immigration counsel will need job descriptions, salary information and may need to obtain educational equivalency evaluations.  Biographical information from the future H-1B employee is also required. 

With advance planning, U.S. employers should have no problem filing H-1B petitions before the lottery deadline.  

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