The annual cap for H-1b specialty work visas was reached in five days, triggering a lottery system, according to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Last year the cap was reached in June, and during the recession the cap was not reached until later December. This year’s rise in the number of H-1b applicants indicates a strong demand for hiring foreign skilled workers in the U.S.
USCIS announced it had received more than 85,000 petitions for foreign workers by Friday. The agency began accepting applications on April 1, they had indicated last month they expected the cap to be filled during the first week. The cap was filled in five days for the first time since 2008.
As a result, USCIS said it would no longer accept H-1b petitions in either category for fiscal year 2014.
As a result of the demand, a lottery for granting 20,000 H-1bs under the advanced degree exemption category will be held first, this category is for people with graduate degrees from American universities. Then all degree petitions not selected in the lottery will be added to the wider lottery to fill the 65,000 limit.
In a statement, Laura Lichter, President of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said, “Reaching the cap so quickly shows that this limit set on recruiting foreign talent just isn’t based on actual labor force demand and the human resource needs of U.S. companies.”
With comprehensive immigration reform likely to pass this year, changes to the H-1b program may become part of the overall package.