U.S. employers continue to have an insatiable need for talented professionals trained outside of our borders, as evidenced by the fact that the H-1B visa program for foreign workers in specialty occupations (such as architects, engineers, doctors and programmers) is no longer accepting applications for the 2010 year.
The Department of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (the “USCIS”) also announced in December that it has also received more than 20,000 applications for advanced degree exemptions for foreign workers (the statutory limit of applications that can be granted is 20,000).
At first glance, it would appear that employers who have waited to act on their need for foreign professional support in 2010 might be a bit late already, but there are still a few legal windows open to those who seek the assistance of experienced counsel.
For example, you might qualify for the H-1B1 status/application for workers having a body of specialized knowledge and coming from specific countries with which we have free trade agreements (i.e., Chile and Singapore). You may also be able to sponsor Canadian and Mexican citizens by using the TN nonimmigrant work visa category that is available to US employers under NAFTA.
You also might qualify for the H-2B status/application for workers serving industries with peak loads, or seasonal or intermittent needs (typically, but not limited to construction, health care, manufacturing, food service, and hospitality industries).
It is also important to note that USCIS will continue to process petitions filed to:
- Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain here;
- Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
- Allow current H-1B workers to change employers (so they can shift between subsidiaries or be traded for other workers);
- Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position (so the work capacity of your existing H-1B workforce can be expanded).
Demand for foreign workers is clearly increasing and competition for visas is keen, so you should seek counsel immediately if you plan to use or continue using foreign trained employees in 2010.