H-1B Professional Worker Visas

Currently, up to 65,000 H-1B visas (6,200 for workers from Chile and Singapore, 58,200 for all other nationalities) may be issued each fiscal year for professional workers. The fiscal year begins on October 1 and ends September 30. Because an employer can apply for an H-1B visa up to six months in advance of the anticipated starting date of employment, the USCIS will accept applications for the new fiscal year (October 1) on or after April 1 of the year. In other words, applications can be filed as early as April 1 for an October 1 approval date.

However, some workers are excluded from the cap including physicians who receive a J-1 waiver of the two-year foreign residency requirement and agree to work in a medical shortage area. Also excluded are workers who are employed by universities or colleges or by non-profit organizations affiliated with universities or colleges (“cap-exempt employers”). This is useful for physicians who use H-1B status to complete their residency for such institutions. In addition, the cap only applies to “new employment,” so in general, a person who already has an H-1B and applies for another H-1B with another employer is not subject to the cap.

However, if the worker obtained H-1B status through a cap-exempt employer and then seeks to change employment to an employer that is not cap-exempt, the new application will be subject to the cap. For example, a physician finishes his residency in H-1B status with a university hospital on June 30, 2014. He has a contract with a private facility to start work on July 15, 2014. His new employer will sponsor the H-1B visa but the petition will be counted towards the cap. If the cap has already been reached, the physician cannot work until October 1, 2014, assuming the employer files early enough.

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