On April 1, 2008, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will begin accepting "H-1B" visa applications for the 2009 fiscal year. Last year, the USCIS reached its H-1B visa quota in one day. By late afternoon on April 2, 2007, the USCIS received approximately 150,000 H-1B applications and had to resort to a random selection process to select applications which fell within the quota. All applications which were not selected or applications filed after April 3, 2007 were returned.
It is likely that the USCIS will also reach its H-1B cap for the 2009 fiscal year soon after April 1, 2008. The H-1B visa program enables U.S. employers to hire highly educated foreign professional workers for "specialty occupations" - jobs that require at least a bachelor's degree or the equivalent in the field of specialty. These foreign workers provide needed specialized or unique skills, fill a temporary labor shortage and/or supply global expertise. Holders of these visas can stay in the United States for up to six years.
Prudent employers should start considering and planning their H-1B visa needs for the upcoming fiscal year. It is also advisable for employers to start making contingency plans for bringing temporary professional workers to the United States if the H-1B cap is reached.