It’s That Time of the Year Again!

Now is the time to start preparing H-1B petitions for consideration in the 2019 H-1B lottery. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting new H-1B visa petitions on April 1, 2019, for start dates of October 1, 2019. USCIS permits filing H-1B visa petitions up to six months before the start of the government fiscal year on October 1 (April 1 of any given year).

The H-1B is one of the most commonly used visas for US employers, frequently used for jobs that normally require at least a university degree in a specific specialty. USCIS is limited to a quota of 65,000 new H-1B visa petitions that may be granted each fiscal year, plus an additional 20,000 new H-1B visa petitions available to individuals with graduate degrees from US universities.

Only new H-1B petitions are subject to quota limits. A foreign professional granted H-1B status under a previous year’s quota is generally exempt from the current year’s quota limit. This can be true if a foreign professional is extending their H-1B status, changing H-1B employers, or changing from another visa status (such as a current F-1 student who recently held H-1B status).

There is also a separate H-1B petition quota for nationals of Chile and Singapore that has never been exhausted. There are treaty benefits like the H-1B for citizens of Canada (TN), Mexico (TN), and Australia (E-3). There are also other visa categories besides the H-1B that employers may be able to use, but with very different requirements.

In addition, H-1B petitions by some employers are exempt. This exemption is generally limited to government agencies, institutions of higher education, and related research organizations or non-profit organizations.

Since 2014, the demand for new H-1B’s easily exceeds the limited supply. In recent years, more than 200,000 petitions were received for the 85,000 H-1B visas available. The quota has been filled within the first week and now an H-1B lottery has been established to handle the volume. Once the quota closes, new H-1B’s will not be accepted again until the following year (2020)


Savvy employers should begin to prepare now to submit new H-1B petitions on March 30, 2019, for receipt at USCIS on April 1, 2019. There are several preliminary steps to complete and government approvals to obtain before filing an H-1B petition with USCIS. Now is the time to prepare job descriptions, organize wage and compensation information, collect academic documents and, where appropriate, secure translations and evaluations of education/experience.

USCIS will begin accepting new h1b visa quota-based applications on April 1st (Monday), 2019. This means that all petitions must be signed and prepared for shipping on Friday, March 29th, 2019.

Individual and corporate clients rely on our legal expertise to help navigate the complex systems of immigration laws, regulations, and treaties in a timely manner. You may not know if you are eligible without talking to our experienced immigration team.

by Gerald LeMelle, Partner and Immigration Law Attorney

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Posted in: Business Law, Immigration Law