The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service announced on June 1 that the 65,000 H-1B visa supply has been exhausted for the 2007 fiscal year, four months before new ones will be made available.
The H-1B, launched in 1990, is a temporary work visa issued to skilled foreign nationals allowing them to work in the United States for up to six years. The program has garnered controversy because of its effect on the IT professional work force.
"This is unprecedented. It marks the second year in a row that the H-1B cap has been prematurely reached," said Deborah J. Notkin, president of the AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) in a statement.
The H-1B visas reached their 2006 fiscal year limit in August 2005, nearly two months before the 2006 fiscal year began. The 2007 fiscal year H-1B visas will not be available until October 1, 2006.
News of the visa supply being extinguished comes on the heels of the U.S. Senate passing the immigration reform bill on May 25, which included a provision to raise the H-1B visa cap to 115,000 from 65,000.
The Senate vote was quickly applauded by Microsoft chairman and chief software architect Bill Gates and derided by the IEEE-USA, an organizational unit within the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
While the immigration bill is not expected to be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, for many groups it calls attention to the need for an increase.
In response to the soaring tech market of the late 1990s, the number of available H-1B visas was temporarily increased to 195,000 by Congress for the 2001-2003 fiscal years, but then it was reverted back to 65,000 in 2004.
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