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Cap on H-1B Temporary Worker Visa Petitions Reached in Less than a Week

The number of H-1B visas, which allow workers in “specialty occupations” to come to the U.S. temporarily, is set by statute, with a limited number available each fiscal year. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting petitions every April 1, and the amount of time it takes to reach the numerical cap keeps getting shorter. This year, USCIS announced that it received enough petitions to meet the cap for fiscal year 2015 in less than one week. Various interests are asking the government to increase the number of H-1B visas available each year, but any such measure remains as elusive as all other immigration reform.

H-1B visas are available to people in “specialty occupations” who have been offered jobs in the U.S. that meets certain criteria. Qualifying jobs must require a bachelor’s degree or higher, or they must be so specialized that only someone with a particular degree may perform the job duties. The degree must be a normal requirement of the employer for similar positions.

The prospective immigrant must have a bachelor’s degree or higher, or its equivalent from a foreign university; or they must have other specialized training or certification. An employer petitioning for an H-1B worker must obtain a labor certification from the Department of Labor, which certifies that no American workers are available to fill the position. An H-1B visa is good for three years, and may often be extended up to a total of six years.

Federal law limits the total number of H-1B visas available each year to 65,000. An additional 20,000 visas are available to individuals with advanced degrees, usually master’s level or higher. Up to 6,800 visas are set aside every year for the H-1B1 program, which is only available to certain workers from Chile and Singapore under free trade agreements with those countries. Applications to renew an existing H-1B visa are not subject to the upcoming fiscal year’s cap, since they were subject to the cap during the year they were granted.

USCIS began accepting H-1B visa petitions for fiscal year 2015 on April 1, 2014. It announced on April 7 that it had received enough petitions to meet the statutory cap. By the time it stopped accepting petitions, it had reportedly received 172,500 submissions, more than twice the total number it can issue. The agency announced on April 10 that it had conducted a computer-generated lottery to select the petitions that it would process. Petitions that were not selected, it said, would be rejected, and the fees would be refunded.

During the period in 2013 when it accepted petitions for fiscal year 2014, USCIS reportedly received a total of 124,000 petitions. The number has been increasing every year. Employers in the technology industry have been particularly vocal about increasing the numerical cap for H-1B visas, claiming that a shortage of IT workers in the U.S. requires them to recruit abroad.

Applying for immigration benefits requires a thorough understanding of the law and careful preparation. Immigration attorney Samuel C. Berger helps businesses petition on behalf of prospective immigrant employees to enable them to come to the U.S. We also represent immigrants and prospective immigrants who seek visas to come to New York or New Jersey areas, or who have already made their homes in this area. To schedule a confidential consultation to see how we may assist you, please contact us today online or at (212) 380-8117.

More Blog Posts:

Immigration News for New Jersey Employment-Based Immigrant Visa and Temporary Worker Visa Petitioners, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, February 5, 2014
H-1B Visa Cap for Fiscal Year 2014 Reached in Just Five Days, USCIS to Hold Lottery, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, April 6, 2013
Bipartisan Proposal for Comprehensive Immigration Reform Includes New Employment-Based Green Card Opportunities, New York & New Jersey Immigration Lawyer Blog, February 7, 2013
Photo credit: By SebDE at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons.