H-1B Applications Quickly Hit Legal Cap

  The USCIS will no longer accept H-1B applications for the 2009 fiscal year, and will choose from the ones it has received at random.   

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced April 8 that it had received enough H-1B visa applications to meet the congressionally-mandated cap for the 2009 fiscal year.

The agency will only complete the initial data entry for filings received between April 1 and April 7.

The USCIS also announced that it had exceeded cap for those filed on behalf of foreigners with master's degrees or higher from U.S. universities-the first 20,000 of these H-1B petitions are exempt from the 65,000 limit each year.

This six-day period before H-1B applications were cut off stands in contrast to last year, when the visas available for the 2008 fiscal year were tapped out on day one.

However, it was not a result of diminished interest. A rule established March 24 stipulated that if the number of H-1B petitions received in the first five business days of accepting applications exceeded the yearly allowance, the USCIS would be allowed to apply a random selection to them. This rule was likely an effort to pacify companies that were outraged that their chance of getting an H-1B application approved was over only moments after it began the year before.

In 2006, the H-1B supply ran out in two months. The H-1B visa cap was reduced to 65,000 from 90,000 in 2004, due to the economic slowdown. It had peaked in 2001 at 195,000 to meet the demand of the tech boom.

Due to the large number of applications received, the USCIS could not announce the precise day it would be conducting the random selection process, only that it would reject and return filing fees for all cap-subject petitions not randomly selected.

Should the application be found to be a duplicate, indicating that a business was trying to increase its chances by gaming the system-something the USCIS recently cracked down on-the petition will be revoked and the filing fee not refunded.

At least two bills currently lingering in Congress stand to significantly increase the number of H-1B visas available, one which would more than double it and the other which would triple the allotment.