Employers in California and around the country often turn to the H-1B visa program when they need workers who possess specialized skills and Americans with the required qualifications cannot be found. Each year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issues 65,000 H-1B visas to individuals possessing a bachelor’s degree or higher and specialized knowledge or skills and a further 20,000 visas to individuals who have graduated from a U.S. university with an advanced degree. However, the agency generally stops accepting petitions just days after the H-1B filing season begins.

The H-1B filing season for 2020 begins on April 1, and employers who hope to secure one of the coveted visas would be wise to make sure that their paperwork is submitted promptly. In 2018, USCIS ended the filing season on April 6 after receiving in excess of 94,000 petitions for the available 85,000 visas.

Employers familiar with the process generally prepare their petitions well in advance as there are several steps involved and certain delays are inevitable. Obtaining a Labor Condition Application from the Department of Labor takes between seven and 10 days, and it can take days or weeks to gather the information and supporting documentation USCIS requires from foreign workers. Nonprofit groups, universities and certain other employers do not need to worry about the filing deadline as their H-1B petitions are not subject to the annual cap.

Employers considering an H-1B visa petition may wish to consult with an attorney familiar with U.S. immigration law early in the process. Attorneys with H-1B visa experience may be able to secure supporting documentation from foreign bureaucracies more quickly, and they might also help to ensure that all paperwork meets the program requirements and is submitted on time. When H-1B petitions are unsuccessful, attorneys may provide clients with details about other work-related visa programs offered by USCIS.