The H-1B nonimmigrant visa is reserved for professionals in a specialty occupation, defined as those positions which require theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor. Professions that qualify as a specialty occupation generally include architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical and social sciences, education, law, business specialties, and others that require a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. If approved, H-1B visas are valid for three years, with the possibility of an extension for an additional three years.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) has announced the initial registration period for the fiscal year 2022 H1B cap will open at 12:00 p.m. (EST) on March 9, 2021, and close at 12:00 p.m. (EST) on March 25, 2021. As a reminder, USCIS requires employers and their legal representatives to register their intent to submit a Petition for an H-1B visa, along with a $10 electronic registration fee. This new filing process began last year and replaced the long-existing practice of preparing and filing extensive petitions and accompanying supporting evidence with no guarantee whether the employer had been selected in the annual lottery for H-1B visas.
No change has been made to the annual allotment of 65,000 H-1B visas, plus the additional 20,000 visas designated to individuals with advanced degrees. As a result, we expect that such visas will be exhausted within days of them becoming available. In 2020, for example, USCIS announced it received 275,000 petitions for H-1B visas, more than triple the allotted amount. Once again, USCIS was forced to use a lottery to determine which petitions would be selected. Given recent history, the chances of a lottery this year are very high. After eliminating any duplicate filings for the same beneficiary, USCIS will conduct the lottery and notify selected employers by April 1, 2021.
Employers selected will have 90 days to file their I-129 Petitions, filing fees and supporting evidence. The actual filing of the petition, and the type of evidence needed in support, will follow the same procedures as in prior years. Further, the recent trend of increased USCIS scrutiny of selected petitions, resulting in more Requests for Evidence during the decision-making process, is expected to continue.
Employers who anticipate the need to utilize the H-1B visa process for employment commencing October 1, 2021, should start planning now for the upcoming filing period. The St. Louis employment and immigration attorneys at McMahon Berger have been assisting employers with their immigration needs for many years and are well-equipped to assist with preparing and submitting petitions for H-1B and other employment visas, including L-1 intracompany transfers and permanent residency. In addition, we routinely advise clients on employment verification issues, such as Form I-9 and E-Verify compliance. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.