The H-1B process may take several months to complete as ISS depends on several government agencies in the process.
ISS will need approximately forty (40) days to complete the various steps involved in preparing an H-1B petition. Once ISS has completed its processes, the petition is sent to USCIS for adjudication. Under normal circumstances, USCIS requires two months to adjudicate an H-1B petition. However, USCIS does not guarantee this and often takes significantly longer — 3-4 months is not an exception. Once the H-1B petition has been approved, the foreign national —if abroad— will likely need to apply for an H-1B visa at the US embassy or consulate. This process may also take a significant amount of time, especially if "administrative processing" is required for the petition, i.e. is the foreign national is subjected to a background check.
It is possible to request Premium Processing, i.e. "expedited processing." Petitions that are filed under Premium Processing are adjudicated by USCIS within 15 days (instead of several months). USCIS charges an additional $1,225 for this service.
While H-1B petitions for new employment must be approved by USCIS before the foreign national may commence his or her employment at VT, petitions for extensions or amendments and petitions for a change of employer merely need to be received by USCIS. As long as the H-1B petition is received by USCIS before the foreign national's current H-1B status expires, he or she may continue his or her employment, if an extension or amendment is requested. If a change of employer is requested, the petition must be filed before the requested start date and the foreign national must be in valid H-1B status at the moment of filing, e.g. he or she must have maintained his or her employment with the previous employer. Under no circumstances may someone start his or her employment in H-1B status before Virginia Tech has filed an H-1B petition for the individual. In these cases, the person may continue (or commence, in the case of a change of employer) his or her employment for a period of 240 days while the petition is pending with USCIS. During this 240-day period, USCIS will adjudicate the H-1B petition.
Therefore, please send H-1B requests to ISS as soon as possible — preferably 6 to 7 months in advance of the requested start date in the case of new employment petitions and 2 to 3 months in the case of extension/amendment/change of employer petitions. Please know that it is never too soon to send an H-1B request to ISS.