In April, just a few days into the filing period for 2009 fiscal year H-1B visas, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would make life a little easier for foreign graduates of U.S. universities awaiting H-1B visas by extending the amount of time they are allowed to stay in the country after graduation before their visas come through–by 17 months. Companies in the tech industry had sought this extension due to the backlogged wait for H-1B visas.
The majority of the responses on a blog entry about the announcement were not pleased with this move, with comments ranging from thanking the administration “for really going the extra mile to protect American citizens from foreign threats” to saying that it is U.S. students in these fields who are “getting the shaft.”
It appears these commenters were not alone. In a lawsuit filed in a U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., a group of H-1B opponents–including the American Engineering Association, Brightfuturejobs.com, Immigration Reform Law Institute and the Programmers Guilder–charged that the administration is helping companies skirt the much-contested H-1B yearly cap.
The annual cap of 85,000 H-1B visas in the United States includes 20,000 for U.S. advanced degree holders in STEM fields. Tech industry proponents, on the other hand, say it has become impossible for student visa holders to get H-1B visas the year they graduate, and extending the period is the only answer.