International

H-1B visa applications exceed cap of 85,000

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said it would use a computer-run lottery to "randomly select the petitions needed to meet the cap."

Amid a raging debate in the U.S on immigration, particularly of skilled workers, applications under the H-1B visa category exceeded the cap of 85,000 fixed for the fiscal year 2017 on Thursday, when filings ended. The process opened on April 1. Of the total cap of 85,000 visas, 20,000 are under a special category called ‘advanced degree exemption.’

Indian IT companies such as TCS, Wipro, and Infosys are among the major users of H-1B visas, along with American giants such as Microsoft and Google that recruit resources from India. In 2014, 86 percent of the new H-1B visas issued were to Indians and over the years, this has become the upwardly mobile Indian’s easiest entry route to the U.S.

After a plunge in demand due to economic slowdown, the demand for H-1 B visas began to rise again in 2011 and has outstripped the available quota within the first week of the season, from 2014. H-1B visa holders are allowed to apply for U.S. permanent residency after five years.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said it would use a computer-run lottery to “randomly select the petitions needed to meet the cap of 65,000 visas for the general category and 20,000 for the advanced degree exemption.” USCIS said due to the “high number of petitions” – no number was mentioned – it was unable to announce the date it will conduct the random selection process. Companies file several times the number of employees that they require, in order to increase the odds of winning the lottery and in the previous season it was more than three times the cap.

The immigration of skilled workers under the H-1B programme meanwhile has become a hot political topic in the U.S. Republicans Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have called for restrictions on these visas; and Democrat Bernie Sanders has argued for higher wages for H-1B employees. Starting this year, the U.S. Congress has also imposed additional fees that apply primarily to Indian companies raising the cost of each approved H-1B visa to above $ 8000.

Still, margins are such that Indian companies did not hold back on the number of applications, according to sources familiar with the sector. No official figures are available.

“The fees that were enacted in December are clearly discriminatory and increase costs for both Indian companies and their U.S. clients among others. Efforts will certainly continue to have these fees rolled back.

That said, even if the U.S. companies decide to have a greater percentage of work performed outside the U.S. the H-1B cap is so low that once again it was hit well before the fiscal year even began,” said Jeff Lande of The Lande Group, a leading advocate for NASSCOM.

USCIS will first randomly select petitions for the advanced degree exemption. All unselected advanced degree petitions will become part of the random selection process for the 65,000 general cap. The agency will return filing fees for all unselected applications.

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2018 7:04:56 PM | http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/h1b-visa-caps-met-lottery-to-decide-85000-new-skilled-immigrants/article8448585.ece