USCIS Says Annual H-1B Visa Cap Not Yet Reached

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced yesterday that the annual H-1B visa cap of 65,000 new H-1B petitions had not yet been reached. In fact, USCIS has only reached “about half” that number of petitions, according to a USCIS spokesman.

As background, H-1B visas are temporary work visas for professionals. There is an annual cap of 65,000 new H-1B petitions that can be approved, 20,000 of which are set aside only for persons with at least a U.S. master’s degree. H-1B petitions are accepted by USCIS beginning on April 1 of each year for work to begin on October 1 of the same year.

Blame it on the economy. Last year, within one week of April 1, USCIS received requests for about double the visas that could be issued for the fiscal year. Two years ago, the cap on H-1B petitions was reached in two days before the agency stopped accepting the applications. In fact, for each of the five previous years, the H-1B cap has been filled before October 1.

Many companies have complained about the artificially low cap on H-1Bs. “U.S. employers deserve better than a random lottery to determine if they can hire the highly educated candidates they need,” Robert Hoffman, vice president for government and public affairs at Oracle.

There’s no way to calculate when this year’s H-1B cap will be reached.

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