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The H-1B Nonimmigrant Visa Season in the USA is here!

In the U.S., we are rapidly approaching the April 1st deadline for the filing for new H-1B visas for the 2008 to 2009 Fiscal Year (FY 08-09). An H1B visa is an excellent option for any foreign national with an undergraduate education (Bachelors, usually) and a sponsor in the USA. This visa is good for three years and it can lead to a Green Card down the road. It is a good option even for Canadians, since the TNs do not lead to a green card.

Unfortunately, H1B visas are available only once a year, and have also become a scarce commodity. H-1B Petitions for FY 08-09 must be received by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security ("DHS"), Citizenship and Immigration Services ("CIS") on April 1st, 2008. If you do not begin to make preparations as early as possible then you and your prospective H-1B employer will be unable to secure an H-1B (subject to the cap) for the October 1st, 2008 start date.

Unless the U.S. Congress acts immediately to increase the quota of 65,000 visas (plus and additional 20,000 for those with Masters Degrees from U.S. Academic Institutions), the allotted number of H-1B visas are likely to be taken on the very first day that the petitions may be filed. This is what happened last year and it is presently anticipated that the same thing is going to happen this year.

Last year during the "run on H-1Bs" many people did not receive the visa because the petitions were not filed in a timely manner. Other cases were not "properly filed" (defined in the CIS regulations) and were incomplete or deficient in some way and they were therefore not approved even though they were filed in a timely manner. If petitioners fail to properly meet each one of the regulatory filing requirements, then the petition may not be considered "properly filed" and may be returned.

There are a few things that prospective H-1B employers and H-1B employees can do to improve the likelihood that the H-1B will be accepted by the CIS. First, be sure that all of the appropriate documentation is contained in the H-1B petition. Second, be sure that the H-1B is submitted to the CIS in a timely manner. Third, be sure that the H-1B is sent to the proper CIS Service Center for adjudication.

Most importantly, H-1B petitioners should consider the possibility of utilizing filing multiple H-1B petitions. Be advised that we are given to understand that the CIS will be issuing guidance prior to April 1st concerning multiple H-1Bs. While it is clearly the case that multiple H-1B petitions by the same H-1B employer for the same H-1B employee will not be accepted, many organizations have layers and layers of subsidiaries and affiliates (different organizations with different Employer Identification Numbers) and there appears to be nothing in the regulations to preclude the use of those organizations as vehicles for additional H-1Bs. With each H-1B submitted, there is a statistically higher chance of one of the H-1Bs being able to "win" the lottery.

What is your H-1B Back-Up Plan? Look North to Canada

The most common reason for H-1B applications to be returned is that too many are received for the number of available H-1B slots. Most foreign nationals invest all their energies in the H-B process without thinking of what they will do if they don't make the quota. It is recommended that H-1B applicants set up an "immigration back-up plan."

Canada offers a viable alternative to those seeking entry in the U.S. and not accepted for an H-1B visa.

What many do not realize is that foreign nationals who are presently in the U.S. can make an application for Canadian permanent residence before, or while, they file for and await an H-1B determination. There is nothing to prevent applying for entry to both countries at the same time. Under the Canadian Immigration Regulations, there is a special provision to allow a foreign national to apply to enter Canada directly from the U.S.- without returning to their home country - as long as that person has been lawfully admitted to the U.S. for one year or more and has the visa(s) to prove it. However, it is preferable to apply to Canada (but not necessarily required) before the current visa in the U.S. expires. Please give me a mail for more information Veronique_malka@visaserve.com.

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