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U.S. employers use the H-1B visa category to hire workers in “specialty occupations,” which are usually those requiring college degrees. The good news is that the U.S. economy is improving, and therefore more and more companies will be using this category to fill job openings. The bad news is that the deadline to file H-1B applications is quickly approaching and visas could be gone the first day they become available.

Employers who wish to employ workers in the H-1B category starting on October 1, 2014 should file those applications six months before, or on April 1, 2014.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has a yearly quota of 65,000 H-1B visas for the general category and 20,000 under the advance degree category. Although this number might seem quite large to some employers, it is important to remember that last year USCIS reached its quota for 2014 on April 1, 2013 and had to conduct a random lottery to determine which eligible applicants were granted H-1B status. There is no benefit to employers in waiting to file the applications, yet if they are not filed by April 1, 2014, it is likely that their employees will not be granted H-1B status for the upcoming immigration year.

It is important to also remember that not all H-1B petitions filed are subject to this cap. There are exceptions for:

1. Workers who are currently in H-1B status and are applying for extension(s) of stay;
2. Workers who are in H-1B status but are applying for change(s) in employment/terms of employment; and
3. H-1B workers who are applying to work in a second H-1B position.

Companies are prohibited from filing duplicate H-1B petitions for the same employee. Some employers in the past have tried to submit multiple petitions for the same worker in order to increase the likelihood he or she will obtain a H-1B visa under the quota. USCIS will deny or revoke multiple filings for the individual and fees will not be refunded. It is important for employers to follow the rules in order to avoid an unfortunate denial for his or her employee.

Knowing that the April 1, 2014 application deadline is quickly approaching, it is important to contact our office as soon as possible. The Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles has experience with filing of H-1B visas and is aware not only of the deadlines, but the proper way to file these applications. The immigration office will work with the employer in evaluating the filing, completing all application, arranging the supporting documents in the order preferred by USCIS and providing the correct filing fees. If a company does not hire an experienced attorney and there is a mistake in an application, the USCIS will likely reject that application, and the employer might not have the opportunity to refile it until the next year.

Our office will also assist employers in obtaining the Labor Condition Application (LCA), which must be obtained from the Department of Labor (DOL) before filing the H-1B application. Employers must keep in mind processing times for the DOL labor certifications and again not delay contacting our law office to process H-1B applications well ahead of the April 1, 2014 filing date.

Obtaining an H-1B visa, especially given the strict deadlines and limited number of visas, is becoming increasingly more challenging. We encourage you to contact our office as soon as possible so we can advise you of your options for your employees, in order to avoid missed deadlines, frustration and complications.