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H-1B visas for temporary skilled workers could go fast this year

Posted on March 14, 2014
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Experts expect strong demand for H-1B visas that are used to bring in foreign temporary skilled workers — especially IT workers. Annual caps limit the amount of available H-1B visas available each year. And those caps could be reached within a week of the opening of this year’s filing period for new visa applications on April 1.

“I’m almost certain the H-1B cap will be reached within the initial window,” said Mark Roberts, CEO of the TechServe Alliance. “Demand is pretty strong.”

CNBC reports Attorney Marc Klein of Thompson & Knight expects there to be 160,000 applications this year.

Federal legislation limits the amount of H-1B visas to 65,000 each year plus 20,000 more reserved for workers with advanced degrees, for a total of 85,000.

Last year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received 124,000 H-1B petitions in the first week. The agency used a lottery to determine who would get the visas. It was the first time the USCIS had used such a lottery since 2008.

The Senate approved legislation to raise the caps, but the question is whether the House will take up the bill, Roberts said.

“When is the time this becomes politically viable? We don’t know the answer,” Roberts said.

There is a fair amount of bipartisan support for additional high skilled visas, he added. However, other parts of the immigration measure have proved more controversial. There’s been talk of putting an increase in H-1B visas into a separate bill is one possibility, but it’s unclear when that could happen. Some backers of immigration reform are reluctant to separate out the issue of H-1Bs because of fears that businesses backing increases in H-1B visas will no longer have a strong incentive to keep pushing for other aspects of reform.

Right now it’s a wait-and-see to find out what happens with legislation to increase the caps on H-1B visas.

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