Breaking yet another record of H-1B visa depletion, the entire supply of specialized-occupation temporary worker visas for the 2008 fiscal year were exhausted the first day they were available, the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) announced April 3.
Each year since 2004, when the cap on H-1B visas was slashed from a record high of 195,000 per year, 65,000 H-1B visas are made available to companies wishing to hire foreign workers with specialized skills—most often, high-tech and back-office processing skills. The cap does not apply to petitions made on behalf of current H-1B holders or from applicants who hold advanced degrees from U.S. academic institutions, for whom an additional 20,000 visas are made available.
The H-1B supply for the 2007 fiscal year was exhausted on May 31, 2006, just two months after theyd been made available, a record year for demand. The cap was reached for 2006 fiscal-year visas in August 2005.
An anticipated heightened fervor around filing season this year prompted the USCIS to announce Mar. 27 that any applications received before the first day of filing, April 2, would, by default, be rejected.
By the first afternoon of filing, the agency reported that it had received about 150,000 applications, or enough to reach the cap for the 2008 fiscal year, and set it as the "final receipt date." It said that computers would be used to pick visa recipients from the application pile at random, and the remainder would be rejected and their filing fees returned.
Petitioners were told that they could resubmit petitions on April 1, 2008, when H-1B visas would become available for the 2009 fiscal year, the earliest date for which an employer may file for employment with a start date of October 1, 2008.
The record-breaking speed of visa depletion is expected to only add fuel to several large technology companies lobbying of Congress to raise the cap. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on March 7, urging the commitee be more welcoming to foreign high-tech talent.
"We need to attract and retain the brightest, most talented people from around the world. This will not happen until we reform our immigration policies for highly skilled workers. America should be doing all it can to attract the worlds best and brightest, who can help us create more jobs and prosperity. Instead, we are shutting them out and discouraging those already here from staying," said Gates in Washington.
Others have criticized the U.S. immigration policy for not being more open to the worlds talented workers, arguing that they are taking themselves out of the competitive race.
"The product and research companies lose out on highly skilled foreign-educated professionals who find the H-1B visa an easy way of making their skills available to them. Since information and expertise must be utilized or suffer obsolescence, these foreign experts might join European firms, thereby giving them a boost over the U.S. ones," wrote Aaman Lamba, publisher of Desicritics.org, a political blog with a focus on Southeast Asia matters, in an editorial April 4.