"To every thing there is a season," the saying goes, and as in-house counsel there's a season coming up that you'll want to be prepared for: H-1B visa season.
As in-house counsel for a company that may hire professionals outside the confines of the U.S. border, H-1B visa season is big business. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") issues H-1B visas to nonimmigrant workers engaged in a "specialty occupation" with a "bachelor's degree or higher degree or its equivalent." In addition to these requirements, applicants must have a U.S. employer, and will be working for an "appropriate wage."
H-1B Visa Application Deadline Approaching
H-1B Visa season officially begins April 1, 2014 -- the first day applications will be accepted for the 2015 cap. You don't need to have applications in by the first, by according to Corporate Counsel, it's advisable to get applications in as close as possible to April 1, 2014, because of the overwhelming number of applications expected. According to the magazine, only 65,000 H-1B visas are issued each year and last year USCIS received almost 124,000 applications. Because of the sheer number, a lottery was used just to process applications, with a rejection rate that's roughly 50%.
Tips for Preparing for H-1B Visa Season
With less than a month to go, make sure you follow these tips to adequately prepare your company for the upcoming H-1B visa season:
- Know Your Deadlines -- Be sure to calendar all relevant deadlines including giving yourself seven days to allow for certification of your labor condition application, suggests Corporate Counsel.
- Dot Your I's, Cross Your T's -- Validate the applicant's education and receipt of degrees, make sure there are no typos on the application, pay the correct fees, and be sure to be mindful of prevailing wage determinations.
- Is There Another Visa? -- Because of the nearly 50% chance of have an application for H-1B visa denied, see if there are other visas that a prospective employee may be eligible for.
- Be Realistic -- Ultimately, you need to be realistic with prospective employees and you must make clear that an H-1B visa -- and an offer of employment -- is not guaranteed. Corporate Counsel advises that employers must have a "contingency plan in place" to deal with "rescinding an offer."
As the need for specialized talent in our global economy grows, the in-house attorney's responsibility in overseeing the H-1B visa increases in importance. In this case, as in flea market shopping, the early bird may get the worm.
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