Every year on the 1st of April, The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows a fixed number of petitions for H1-B visas for the subsequent fiscal year starting on the first of October. Applicants are divided into two separate categories: regular petitions and petitions from Masters’ degree holders from American universities. The total number of petitions received by USCIS for H1-B visas in 2014 for the fiscal year that began October 1, 2014, was about 172,000. It is to be seen if the number of application will increase this year, considering the revival of the job market and the number of open positions in the market. If the quota remains the same, it would mean a lot of disappointed aspirants.
USCIS and the Lottery for a Better Life:
The H1-B visa program helps employers to legally bring in foreign workers with highly specialized skills. As we reach the end of February, there is scant time for businesses to identify foreign workers who fulfill their requirements and to then put together plans to bring them to the U.S. Employers must register with the Department of Labor, then obtain the certified Labor Condition Application for applicants. Experienced companies file the petitions for H1-B visas by April 1st, as in 2014 and previous years the cap for applications was reached within the first week.
Every petition received by the USCIS is labeled with a unique identifier, and segregated into two categories; the Masters’ quota and the general quota. If the applications exceed the cap set for the Masters’ quota (which was 20,000 in 2014), then that many applicants are selected through a lottery system. The ones that are not picked are mixed with the rest of the regular quota applications. The applications are again filtered through a lottery system, until the cap is reached for regular applications, which stood at 65,000 in 2014. The selected applications are then processed for adjudication.
In their frenzied efforts to be selected, some petitioners file two or more applications, hoping to increase their chances in the lottery run by the USCIS and fully knowing that they would forfeit the fees paid, if caught. These individuals may be applying for different positions with the same employer, or numerous positions with different employers.
Many IT companies in America depend on H1-B visas to source the skills they require. It is only when businesses are doing well that they would be interested to hire more foreign workers, and expend the necessary time and effort to undergo the H1-B visa process. Workers would not wish to relocate to another country unless the conditions in their current location are uncomfortable. In a way, the time taken by the H1-B petitions to reach the cap has always been an indicator of the state of affairs in America, and the countries of the world.
Hope Springs Eternal:
Businesses are hoping that the cap on petitions will increase to 115,000 and even 195,000. Members of both political parties are in favor of helping businesses bridge their talent needs if the foreign workers do not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of local workers similarly employed. Allowing talented individuals to enter the U.S. on H1-B visas can result in major contributions to the companies who employ them and the overall economy of America. Businesses are always trying to minimize their costs and maximize their profits. By artificially restricting their access to needed workers who are in short supply domestically, companies are forced to acquire those services from offshore resources. The last word on this year’s cap on H1-B visas is still not out, but as the saying goes ‘hope springs eternal’!
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