A popular U.S. visa program for skilled workers is likely to hit its
quota within days after its application period opens, triggering a
lottery and signaling that companies feel confident enough about the
economy to hire more foreign workers.
The H-1B program will not have
reached its base cap of 65,000 so quickly since early 2008, before the
economic crisis hit. That was the last time a lottery was used,
according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes
The application period opened on Monday. The
USCIS plans to announce by the middle of next week if it will hold a
lottery for the visas, a spokesman told Reuters on Monday. It had
previously said it anticipated the quota for the year starting October 1
could be met by Friday.
Last year the cap was not reached until June.
paperwork that prospective visa seekers must file with the Department
of Labor before applying to USCIS indicates that there is demand for
well over 65,000 visas, said Jacksonville, Florida-based lawyer Ashwin
Sharma, who handles H-1B visa applications for technology consulting
firms. He expects a record volume of applications this year.
companies, particularly in technology, say they need the visas to fill
vacant positions. But some worker-advocacy groups counter that the
companies are using the visa program to hire cheaper foreign labor.
the official quota is 65,000, the actual number of people who enter the
United States on H-1Bs is far greater because workers at universities
and some other workplaces don't count toward the limit. Masters and PhD
graduates from U.S. universities have their own quota of 20,000 visas.
Last year, the government issued 129,000 H-1B visas - almost double level of the official quota.
U.S. Congress is currently working on immigration reform legislation.
Among proposals being considered is a revamp of the H-1B program that
could raise the quota based on demand and eliminate the lottery.
© Thomson Reuters 2013