This is a friendly reminder that it is that time of year again – H-1B season! All new, cap-subject H-1B petitions should be ready for mailing to USCIS by March 31, 2017, so that they will be received by USCIS on April 1st. Employers actually do have four more days – the first five business days in April – to get their H-1Bs filed, but thinking of March 31st as your deadline is best practice. If you are an employee, you need to make sure that your employer is cooperating with their lawyer, and providing all necessary documents and information for the H-1B petition.

Today is already March 1st, so if you are an employer and have not yet gotten started on gathering the information and documents for the H-1B petitions you are planning to file on behalf of employees or prospective employees for this fiscal year, you need to get organized. You have only this month of March to prepare.

An approved Labor Condition Application must be included with every H-1B petition. Because the Labor Condition Applications (LCAs) generally take at least seven days to be approved, and during this high-volume time can pend for even longer, you cannot wait until the last minute and expect to be able to file the H-1B petition timely.

Last year, April 2016, USCIS received more than 236,000 H-1B petitions for new, cap-subject cases. Because there are only 65,000 H-1B visa numbers, and an additional 20,000 H-1B visa numbers for US masters degree holders, USCIS again held a lottery to determine which petitions would receive H-1B visa numbers. Even if your petition is lucky enough to receive a visa number, this is no guarantee that the case will be approved. You still must show that the employee is a professional, with the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree, that the position itself is a professional one, which generally requires a bachelor’s degree in a specific field, and that the employer is bona fide, and has sufficient revenues and work available to be able to pay the prevailing wage, and to provide a position for the beneficiary for up to three years, or length of time requested in the petition.

According to the most recent report available, USCIS’s “Characteristics of H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers for Fiscal Year 2015 Annual Report to Congress”, dated March 17, 2016, the total number of H-1B petitions (including extensions and non-cap cases) increased nine percent from 318,824 in FY 2014 to 348,669 in FY 2015. The number of H-1B petitions approved decreased 13 percent from 315,857 in FY 2014 to 275,317 in FY 2015. Sixty-six percent of H-1B petitions approved in FY 2015 were for workers in computer-related occupations, and the median salary increased from $75,000 to $79,000.