Maryland employers seeking to hire workers from foreign countries to fill specialized positions could face challenges because of the caps for the needed H-1B visas. Examples of those who might take advantage of the H-1B program include engineers, scientists and medical professionals. However, there are limits to the number of these visas awarded each year. When the number of applicants exceeds the number of visas available, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services uses a lottery system to award these visas.
The application period for fiscal 2017 visas under the H-1B program had only been open for five business days when the number of applications surpassed the available openings on April 7, 2016. Those seeking their H-1B visas based on holding U.S. master’s degrees are limited to 20,000 visas, and others in the general pool of H-1B applicants compete for 65,000 visas. When the number of applications is greater than the number of visas available, a lottery is used to select those who will have the opportunity to continue toward receiving their visas. However, the master’s degree visas are awarded first, after which point the remaining applicants from this pool are added to the general pool prior to that lottery taking place.
There are certain H-1B situations that are not subject to the cap or to the lottery process. These typically involve those who already hold such work visas and either need extensions or seek changes in terms of employment or in employers.
Because certain types of visa programs are subject to caps and time restrictions, it can be advisable to work with an immigration lawyer prior to application periods opening to ensure that all paperwork and supporting documentation is ready. Additionally, it may be helpful to discuss alternatives in case numerical limits prevent an individual from obtaining the type of visa desired.