H-1B Visa Cap Reached Within Hours
April 12, 2007

The general allotment of 65,000 H-1B work visas for fiscal year 2008, which runs from October 1, 2007 through September 20, 2008, was exhausted on the first day that applications were accepted by Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS). With employers allowed to submit their filings up to 6 months in advance of the start of the fiscal year, CIS reported that by mid-afternoon on April 2, 2007, CIS had received more than 150,000 applications. Fortunately for those foreign workers who have obtained an advanced degree while studying in the U.S., a separate H-1B cap of 20,000 visa has not yet been reached, but is expected to very soon. It should also be noted that various employers are exempt from the H-1B cap, including not-for-profit employers who are associated with institutions of higher learning.

With the cap being reached at such lightning speed, perhaps the light shining on the need for reform will be brighter. In fact, there has been much talk about the need to expand the annual allotment of H-1B visas. Microsoft Chairman, Bill Gates, has denounced the cap saying that if the cap is not increased, the U.S. will lose its competitive edge as technology advances in countries such as China and India. He has even said that if it were left up to him to write the law “I’d certainly get rid of the H-1B visa cap. That’s one of the easiest decisions.”

Recently, a few members of the Senate have taken note of the growing demand for reforms to the U.S. visa programs and have introduced bills to address this issue. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) has introduced the Securing Knowledge, Innovation and Leadership Act (SKIL Act) which aims to tackle the limited H-1B cap as well as get rid of the current employment-based green card backlog. The High-Tech Worker Relief Act, proposed by Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) more specifically would temporarily increase the cap from 65,000 to 195,000 for 2008 stating that in the past, Congress has temporarily increased the cap when there has been a shortage of American workers. Previously, Representatives Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) introduced the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy Act of 2007 (STRIVE Act). While this act address a variety of immigration reforms, the H-1B visa cap would be increased to 115,000 with the possibility of future increases if the cap is reached.

On the other end of the spectrum, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced the H-1B and L-1 Visa Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act which actually would increase the restrictions and requirements in obtaining an H-1B visa.

Whether or not Congress will pass any of the above mentioned bills or any other immigration reform bill still remains to be seen.

Copyright © 2007-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois