Compliance | Talent

How Businesses Can Navigate Changes to the 2019 H-1B Cap Process

February 19, 2019

Navigating the process of hiring foreign nationals can be challenging for small and medium size businesses (SMBs) that aren’t yet experienced in the process. In this post, we’ll dive more into H-1B sponsorship, discuss process changes that have been made so far in 2019 and give information on how SMBs can prepare to file in the 2019 H-1B cap lottery.

What is the H-1B program?

Administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the H-1B program allows companies in the U.S. to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty or its equivalent.

An employer with an open position for an individual with specialized training and experience that requires at least a bachelor’s degree, or the international equivalent, may be in a good position to sponsor an employee for an H-1B visa. However, to be successful, you’ll also want to ensure the degree the candidate has obtained is one required for the position. The better a foreign national candidate matches to the responsibilities of the open position, educational requirements and years of experience needed to be successful in the job, the more likely a company has of being found eligible to sponsor the worker for the role.

Important cap changes to the 2019 H-1B visa lottery

The U.S. government restricts the number of new H-1B Visas (H-1B Cap) passed out to foreign nationals each year – 65,000 for all applicants, and an additional 20,000 for applicants with an advanced degree from a U.S. college or university. Because this type of visa is so popular, the government receives over 100,000 applications every year. Therefore, to ensure fairness, USCIS holds a random lottery each April to select visa recipients.

In previous years, the government would hold the random lottery for applicants with advanced degrees first. Anyone not selected in that lottery would get a second chance to be selected for the remaining visas available. However, the order of the lottery has been changed for 2019.

Holding the general lottery first will not change the likelihood of being selected. Instead, it will increase the likelihood that holders of advanced degrees will be selected, since the advanced degree lottery will have fewer applicants to draw from. According to the USCIS, the result of this will be that “U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers with a U.S. master’s degree or higher will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery in years of excess demand for new H-1B visas.”

How businesses can help their foreign national employees

For companies whose workforce depends on foreign national employees, getting started early not only reassures employees that their company supports their continued work in the U.S. but gives employers enough time to process all the necessary paperwork before April 1, 2019, which is opening day for H-1B visa cap season!

TriNet clients needing assistance in the H-1B visa process can reach out to the TriNet immigration services team at immigration@trinet.com to schedule a free consultation before March 1.

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

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By TriNet

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