US immigration lawyers are warning that the entire year’s quota of 65,000 H-1B ‘specialty occupation’ visas for the 2014 fiscal year may be allocated in a single week at the beginning of April 2013.
If a US employer wishes to employ a foreign worker in a ‘specialty occupation’ it must apply to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an H-1B visa which will, if the application is successful, be issued to that worker. The foreign worker should usually have at least a bachelor’s degree (or, failing that, a level of skill achieved through training, experience and/or qualifications that amounts to ‘degree equivalence’).
H-1Bs last for three years and can be renewed for a second three year term. H-1B holders can apply for their ‘green card’ (or permanent resident status) while in the US if they meet certain requirements. While they are waiting for their green card applications to be processed, they can apply for extensions of their H-1B visas.
Cap at 65,000 since 2004
The annual cap for H-1Bs has stood at 65,000 annually since 2004. (It was fixed at 195,000 for three years before that). There is also an annual allocation of 20,000 H-1Bs that can be granted to the holders of higher degrees such as PhDs and Masters’ degrees from US universities.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (US CIS) starts to accept applications in April each year for the tax year starting in the following October. So applications for the 2014 tax year (which begins in October 2013), will be accepted from April 1st 2013.In recent years, the cap has been reached more and more quickly. For fiscal year 2010, the cap was reached in December 2010. In fiscal year 2011, it was reached in January 2011, in fiscal year 2012, the cap was reached in November 2011 and for fiscal year 2013, the cap was reached in June 2012, only two and a half months after the application period began.
Most US lawyers expect that the cap will be reached even quicker this year and are urging their clients to have their applications ready to present on 1st April. We would endorse this advice.Cap may be reached in week one
Now one US law firm, Fennemore Craig, is predicting that the quota may be reached after only one week. Sanwar Ali of Workpermit.com said ‘Anyone who is intending to apply for an H-1B visa should apply as soon as possible. Any US employer that wants to employ foreign workers with H-1B visas will be aware that the cap will be reached pretty soon so they are going to get their applications in early. There is every chance that you will miss out if you don’t apply straight away’.
Many businesses, particularly in the tech sector have campaigned to have the cap increased but anti-immigration campaigners oppose any increase claiming that H-1B workers take jobs that could be filled by US-born workers.
US industry denies this. Particularly in the field of IT, US businesses say that there are simply not enough qualified US-born workers joining the workforce. Certainly, the yearly rush for H-1B visas suggests that US employers would like to employ many more.Microsoft in favour of buying H-1Bs
In October last year, Microsoft said it was in favour of legislation that would allow US employers to buy H-1B visas. The money raised would go towards training US graduates for the future.
The Immigration Innovation Bill was introduced in the Senate in January. If it becomes law, it would see an immediate increase in the H-1B cap to 115,000 with a potential for the number of H-1Bs granted in any tax year to rise to 300,000.
March 12 ‘ 2013