As the US auto industry continues to grow and approach record high sales numbers, many employers in the industry struggle to recruit qualified employees for its STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) positions. To address these shortages and expand the pool of qualified applicants, employers may consider recruiting outside of the US or hiring foreign students currently completing degrees in the US.
In exploring visa options to keep or bring these highly skilled foreign nationals to the US, the H-1B visa may often be the best choice. The H-1B visa allows US employers to employ foreign employees in specialty occupations that require the theoretical or practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, such as scientists, engineers or information technology professionals.
While the H-1B appears to be the ideal visa to allow employers to recruit qualified STEM candidates from abroad to address shortages in technical fields, there are some constraints to keep in mind. The H-1B visa is subject to a congressional mandated annual cap initially set in 1990 of 85,000 visas (65,000 for the general category and 20,000 for applicants who hold a US Master’s degree). The H-1B also requires planning for hiring needs over six months in advance of the start date for employees not already in the US in another work authorized status, such as a recent foreign student graduate working on post-education employment authorization.
Employers may first apply for 2017 H-1B visas for individuals not currently in H-1B status on April 1, 2016 with a start date of October 1, 2016. Pre-filing requirements and application preparation times require employers to decide on H-1B hiring needs by early March 2016. USCIS received approximately 233,000 H-1B petitions during the first week applications were accepted for the 2016 H-1B visa cap and conducted a random lottery to select the 85,000 petitions for the H-1B cap. We anticipate similar high demand again this year. This H-1B cap limitation does not apply to extensions of H-1B status or those obtaining H-1B status to teach at colleges, universities, related nonprofit or government research organizations or J waiver physicians. If your company has potential H-1B candidates currently outside of the US or working on post-education employment authorization that will expire prior to October 1, 2017, please contact us to prepare H-1B petitions for these individuals as soon as possible to secure an available visa.