On April 28, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began premium processing for H-1B visa petitions subject to the 2015 cap, including H-1B petitions seeking an exemption from the fiscal year cap for individuals who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher.
As we previously reported, the H-1B visa cap was met quickly this year. The 2015 visa application period began on April 1 and, on April 7, USCIS announced that it had received approximately 172,500 H-1B visa petitions. Because the quota limit is only 65,000 in the general category and 20,000 in the advanced exemption category, a lottery was conducted and those petitions not chosen were rejected and returned to the petitioners.
According to USCIS, those H-1B visa petitions chosen in the lottery, will be processed within 15 months. Those petitions that were not chosen in the lottery will be returned to the applicant along with the applicable filing fees.
Alternative Employment Immigration Options
Because the H-1B visa allows foreign nationals working in a specialized field to work in the U.S. for up to three years, it is often the preferred immigration choice for many employers seeking to hire a foreign national. Nonetheless, given the strict quota limit of the H-1B visa, many employers are considering alternate immigration options. For instance, employers may be able to hire foreign nationals to work in the U.S. under one of the following work visas:
L-1 visa for intra-company transfers. Generally, an applicant must have worked abroad as an executive, manager, or specialized employee for at least one continuous year within the previous three year period in order to qualify for the L-1 intra-company transfer visa.
TN visas for citizens of Canada and Mexico. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), TN work visa status is available for Canadian and Mexican citizens who will enter the U.S. to be engaged in activities at a professional level, which is generally defined as a job that requires at least a baccalaureate degree or appropriate credentials. There are no caps on the number of TN visas that can be issued each year.
E visas for business investors. An E-1 or E-1 visa is available for traders and investors who are citizens of countries with which the U.S. has a treaty of trade and commerce.
O visas for workers with extraordinary ability. The O visa enables people with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or the motion picture and television industry to enter the U.S. for temporary periods of time.
E-3 visas for citizens of Australia. 10,000 visas are available each year for Australian foreign nationals and their spouses.
H-1B1visas for citizens of Singapore and Chile. 5,800 total visas are available for citizens of Singapore and Chile who meet the requirements for the H-1B visa.
Regardless of the work visa sought, the success of a visa petition depends, in large part, on cooperation between the employer and potential employee.