The US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that the 2013 fiscal year quota of 65,000 H-1B visas (the “H-1B visa cap”) was exhausted on June 11, 2012.  To put this in context, last year’s quota lasted until November and the previous year’s until January.  This means that US employers who need certain specialty skilled foreign national workers will have to wait until next April to petition and until October 2013 to employ a new H-1B worker.  Although this may be a good sign that hiring is on the upswing, it’s also another stark reminder that our US immigration system is not in sync with the demands of the 21st century marketplace.

However, not all is lost when it comes to employment-based visas.  Employers still have options to get through the second half of the calendar year with the following:

Cap exempt H-1B petitions may still be filed.  This includes extension, amendment or change of employer filings for current H-1B holders.  In addition, certain non-profit petitioners that are or affiliated with institutions of higher education or research may be exempt from the Cap as well as foreign national physicians that have obtained a J-1 waiver.

  • There are still cap subject H-1B1s for Singaporean and Chilean nationals;
  • E-3 visas are also available for Australian nationals;
  • NAFTA (TN) visas have no limit for nationals of Canada and Mexico;
  • Many graduating foreign national students are eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT) work authorization which can last from 1 year to 29 months for “STEM” graduates of US institutions whom are hired by employers enrolled in E-Verify.  These students may be eligible to change to an H-1B next year;
  • Employers may utilize interns or trainees under various J visa exchange programs;
  • Multinational or treaty investor/trader employers may take advantage of the L-1 or
    E-1/E-2 visa for eligible executive, manager, supervisor, specialist or essential skills employees; and
  • Employers hiring individuals who are considered extraordinary or outstanding in their respective field may be eligible for an O-1 visa.

To paraphrase Emily Dickinson, we will dwell in the Possibility.