H-1B Demand Surges Back

The government’s H-1B filing season for the 2013 fiscal year (FY2013) began on April 2, 2012, with a renewed surge in U.S. employer demand for professional workers. With an annual limitation of 65,000 H-1B petitions (plus another 20,000 for workers holding U.S. advanced degrees), the H-1B classification is a complex but useful tool for American employers in need of foreign talent. For the past two years, modest H-1B demand has afforded employers time and flexibility for planning their organizational strategies. This comfort appears to be short-lived.

As of May 11, 2012, 36,700 cases had been counted against the 65,000 cap and 14,800 had been filed against the advanced degree cap of 20,000 – more than twice as many for this time during each of the previous two fiscal years. In the coming weeks, it is projected that H-1B numbers for FY2013 will be exhausted and employers will be faced with a harsh reality – they will not be able to start a new H-1B worker until October 1, 2013. It is even conceivable that the H-1B cap will be reached by the time this column is published.

Year after year, the current allocation of H-1B petitions has proven to be inadequate, although it is not clear that numerical limitations are even necessary. When reviewed against U.S. economic trends, the H-1B classification suggests a self-regulating market: petitions increase during periods of economic growth and decrease when the American economy sputters.

Michael D. Patrick is a Partner at Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy, LLP, resident in its New York office.

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