Although U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) will not begin accepting Petitions for new H-1Bs under the annual cap until April 1, 2013, it is not too early to begin thinking about possible sponsorship. The annual cap of 65,000 new H-1B classifications, plus 20,000 for applicants with U.S. Master's degrees, was reached last year in only the second week of June 2012, much earlier than had been the case in recent post-recession years. Employers are now gearing up for this year's cap season, and it seems likely that the cap will be reached far earlier than last year, possibly even during the first week of April, as was happening before the recession. (Please note that the cap does not apply to H-1B extensions, nor to H-1B transfers.)
Since an H-1B which is applied for when the cap season opens on April 1 will not authorize employment until October 1, 2013, and with the possibility that all the H-1Bs under the cap will be spoken for well before October 1, advance planning pays off. Possible candidates for new H-1B sponsorship include current F-1 students working for your company on OPT, J-1 trainees, and foreign students you may be now recruiting to begin work after graduation in May 2013. F-1 students on OPT have an advantage maintaining employment authorization even if their OPT will expire before October 1 – as long as their OPT does not expire before April 1, and as long as an H-1B is filed on their behalf before the OPT expires, their OPT will be automatically extended through October 1 (or until and if the H-1B is turned down).
Should you have any questions about the upcoming H-1B cap season, please contact Jim O'Brien or Lindsey Steinberg.
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