The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is likely to start accepting applications for H-1B visas from April 1, 2014. However, USCIS will not accept applications filed before the program start date. Applications filed before the USCIS announces the start date will be rejected.
Applications for these work visas can be filed only by the U.S. employers who want to hire foreign nationals and not by the foreign nationals who want to work in the U.S. To get H-1B visas, skilled foreign workers need to be sponsored by U.S. employers. U.S. employers use these work visas to hire skilled foreign workers like engineers, scientists or computer programmers.
USCIS issues 65,000 H-1B visas every year. Apart from that, it issues 20,000 visas to foreign nationals who have received advanced degrees or Master’s degrees from institutions in the U.S.
USCIS received around 124,000 applications for H-1B visas last year, during the first week of the filing period. The agency accepted petitions for processing by establishing a random selection process. Only the petitions that were selected were adjudicated by the USCIS. The agency returned the applications it rejected along with the fee. USCIS will establish a lottery this year too, if the demand for H-1B visas is high. USCIS generally holds a lottery to select petitions if it receives more than 85,000 H-1B petitions.
Employers who wish to hire skilled foreign workers can start preparing their H-1B visa applications. They need to be ready to submit their petitions for receipt on 1st April, 2014. U.S. employers need to file Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker, with the USCIS service center that has jurisdiction over the location where the H-1B beneficiary will work.
The immigration reform bill that the U.S. Senate has passed would expand the H-1B visa program. But the bill is stalled in the House and it has not been passed by the U.S. Congress. If the U.S. Congress passes the immigration reform bill before 1st April 2014, applicants would be required to comply with the changes.