By Beau Denton

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Last year, U.S. employers filed approximately 124,000 petitions for H-1B visas—the type of visa that lets a highly educated foreign worker move to America for a job that requires a degree. The problem, though, is that the U.S. government only issues about 65,000 of those visas per year. In 2013 the government closed the application period after one week and conducted a lottery-style selection to determine which of those 124,000 petitions would receive one of the 65,000 visas. Victoria Jaensch Karins, a member of Jaensch Immigration Law Firm and chair of the Central Florida Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, says 65,000 is an arbitrary cap; the U.S. Senate passed a bill to increase the number, but the measure stalled in the House.

For fiscal year 2015, which starts in October, the application period opens April 1, 2014. Karins says it’s possible that the application period will stay open longer, but there is reason to expect that the government will receive just as many petitions as last year, meaning you might only have about a week to submit an application. “There are pitfalls in that process,” says Karins. “It’s not just a matter of filing forms.” The government’s standards concerning what jobs require degrees and what is considered a fair wage can be confusing.

Submitting an application before the window closes will require haste, and consulting someone who knows the ins and outs of the law will smooth the process. For those who don’t apply in time, and those who aren’t selected during the lottery, it’s never too early to start preparing for next year.

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