H-1B “cap” season and the government shutdown

Although many businesses have become accustomed to the seasonality of sponsoring H-1B visas, there is a new reason for employers to identify candidates and employees potentially needing H-1B sponsorship early this year: the looming government shutdown.  Although U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS, the agency that adjudicates H-1B visa petitions) is fee-funded, and operates as usual during a shutdown, a government shutdown affects the issuance of a critical H-1B prerequisite document by the U.S. Department of Labor.  Without this document, the H-1B “cap” case cannot be filed.  Currently the government is funded until February 8, 2018, and future shutdowns appear possible before the April H-1B filing window opens.  Therefore, it’s imperative to initiate cases, now, while the government is “open for business.”

As background, the H-1B visa is the U.S.’s workhorse visa for professionals.  Not all jobs and all individuals are H-1B-eligible.  In general, the job must be one that ordinarily requires knowledge and skills obtained by earning a Bachelor’s or higher degree in a specific field, and the individual must have the required degree or equivalent.  For first-time H-1B applicants, there is a narrow application window in the first week of April for employers to submit H-1B petitions to USCIS.  Depending on the issues in a case, it can take several weeks for an application to be ready to file.

© Jewell Stewart & Pratt PC 2018