How early should I start preparing for my H-1b petition to meet the April filing deadline with USCIS?

H-1b employers and applicant employees often wonder how early to start preparing for H-1b petition filing, so we generally recommend at least 30 days.

H-1b petition packet is consisted of several different important components, such as the Labor Condition Application (LCA), Application Form I-129, employer support letter that details the applicant’s eligibility, detailed job description that satisfy the Specialty Occupation requirement, and supporting evidence to demonstrate applicant’s qualifications. Some of these documentations require time to obtain verification and certification from Department of Labor. For example, if an employer has never sponsored an H-1b employee, Department of Labor requires that it submit evidence of its Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) electronically for verification. After the FEIN is verified, the employer can then file the Labor Condition Application (LCA), and it will take Department of Labor more than week to certify the LCA. Department of Labor often experience backlog on FEIN verification and LCA certification process as time moves closer to April 7th, which is generally the deadline to file for H-1b.

In addition to the time required by Department of Labor, the employer support letter often requires revisions before it can be finalized, particularly related to the job description section to show that the offered position qualifies as a Specialty Occupation under the law. This section is extremely important because it would be unfortunate for a client’s H-1b petition to be selected in the lottery only to be denied later for failing to meet the Specialty Occupation requirement. These steps are essential to assemble an approvable H-1b petition packet, and therefore as a firm we normally would not agree to take on an H-1b case after March 7th.

When is the absolute deadline to start filing for the necessary verification and certification with Department of Labor for the H-1b petition?

From time to time we do receive urgent request to prepare H-1b packets for clients who sign up the last minutes. This is often because the employer has not managed the time line well and negotiations were not settled until after March 7th. Based on my experience in the last 5 years, the FEIN verification process usually takes no more than 7 business days, even when DOL is experiencing high volume requests, and the Labor Condition Application takes no more than 9 business days to get certified. As such, since the deadline for USCIS to receive the H-1b petition is normally the 7th of April, the absolute deadline to initiate H-1b petition preparation would be March 23rd. Without a doubt, this will give the immigration lawyer very little time to prepare the employer support letter and might result in receiving an RFE from USCIS. However, the latest date I have accepted an H-1b case was March 21st and we were able to complete the petition packet for filing because the client paid a premium expedite fee.

 

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