H-1B Season is Near: Start Planning for it Now! Every year, the U.S. Federal Government releases 65,000 visas for professional-level employees. These visas are labeled H-1B visas, and businesses expecting to hire foreign professional workers should start planning now to claim these visas next year. The government releases these visas in October, the beginning of the fiscal year, and allows businesses to start applying for these visas in April. As the U.S. economy is getting stronger, these visas are now being released to employers soon after the April start date. Before the economic down turn of 2008, these visas would run out within days after April 1st. After our economic crisis, the availability of these visas could last for up to 8 months. In 2012 the visas lasted until July, only 90 days. This means that employers should start now and be ready to submit in the first week of April 2013 to improve the chances of being granted an H-1B visa. The foreign worker can’t start working until his or her H-1B visa becomes valid on October 1, but the company must start preparing for the application well before April. The requirements for the visa focus on the qualifications of the employee. The employee must have a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree (or the equivalent), a valid passport, and a job offer from a U.S. company. The job offer must be for a specialized position (for example accounting, law, senior management, or engineering, etc.), and must include a salary commensurate with professional-level work. A qualified immigration attorney can provide a list of positions that the U.S. Immigration Service considers professional. In all, the visa application process can be long, including time to evaluate a foreign worker’s qualifications and fulfill job posting requirements at your place of business. In addition, there is an increase in cost of hiring a foreign employee (legal fees and government cost), not normally associated with hiring a U.S. Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident. It is best to start the H-1B visa planning process early by following these steps: Estimate what your employment needs will be in October of next year, 2013. Determine if you can find competent workers in the United States or if you will need to look for foreign workers abroad. Contact potential foreign workers in their home countries or recruit foreign students graduating from universities in the U.S. Collect information on their academic credentials, including copies of degree, diplomas, certificates, transcripts, and resumes. Contact a qualified immigration attorney for advice on what professional position best fits the employee’s credentials and your business needs. Have the immigration attorney help you draft a job offer for the foreign employee and guide you through the application process. Be patient and work with your attorney to collect necessary documents and fulfill specific requirements. Make sure you know the costs and the timeframe of the application process before you start. Keep your attorney informed of any changes to the worker’s terms of employment, and take advantage of your professional worker while he or she is in the United States. Foreign workers often bring new perspectives and strong work ethic. They can be a great asset to your business, especially when you can’t find qualified workers in the United States. Plan now for a stronger work force next year, and don’t be afraid to hire a foreign worker. If you think they’re right for your business, make sure you get the advice and guidance you need to successfully apply for the H-1B visa your worker will need. About the Author: The Lozano Law Firm was established by Alfredo Lozano to impart personal attention and cost-effective immigration solutions to San Antonio and San Angelo TX corporate clients. For more information please call 210-932-3600 or visit http://www.abogadolozano.com.