United States reaches FY2009 H-1B cap
11 April 2008
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The United States H-1B program has proven incredibly popular again, reaching the Congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 visa applications by 08 April 2008. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) also announced that they had received more than enough applications by 08 April to satisfy the 20,000 visas that are exempted from the cap for foreign graduates of US universities who hold at least a Master's degree.
USCIS will perform an automated selection process on all applications received during the filing period (01 April through 07 April 2008) to determine who will get the visas once initial data entry for the applications is complete. Because of the high number of applications, USCIS has stated that it is unknown when this will take place.
USCIS will perform the random sampling on the 20,000 cap exempt applications first. Those not chosen from this initial round will be placed in the same pool with the 65,000 limit applications.
The H-1B program allows United States employers to hire foreign professionals with a university degree for temporary employment in the US. Competition is fierce for the yearly quota of visas and many industry lobbyists and other special interest groups feel that the US government should raise the visa limit. Many foreign students trained in the US in such fields as medicine, science, and engineering are forced to leave, taking their talents elsewhere.
A recent rule allowing foreign students to work longer under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program may have persuaded more graduates to file during this round. The rule, which extends a student's ability to work under OPT from one year to 29 months, was put in place by USCIS in an attempt to make it easier for foreign graduates to remain in the US between completion of their studies under an F1 visa and the start of the H-1B visa's validity.
The new and improved OPT program gives some breathing room to undergraduate and graduate students and current OPT holders, who may have previously found it difficult to apply for an H1B. Some employers are reluctant to petition for foreign workers because they feel that the process is long, costly and time consuming. However, if the foreign worker or student is employed for a longer term thanks to the new OPT rule, he or she may have a much better chance to establish a relationship with the employer and be sponsored for the H-1B.