Current Availability of H-1B Work Visas
April 22, 2005

No doubt about it, the annual allotment of 65,000 H-1B visas for foreign professional workers dries up pretty quick. Within just a few months after the Citizenship and Immigration Service’s fiscal year begins, US businesses are now left without options to employ foreign professional workers because the meager supply of H-1B visas is exhausted. With the fiscal year starting on October 1 each year, by December or January the H-1B visas are usually gone – as was the case this year, and companies and foreign workers must wait until April 1 of the following year to start the process to reserve their visas for the next fiscal year (because the process can be started up to 6 months in advance).

Although certain employers, such as universities or institutions associated with universities, are exempt from the cap, the current annual supply of visas does not even minimally address the real world needs of US businesses and their ability to keep pace in our global economy. As a consequence, the world’s best and brightest scientists, engineers and other professionals are looking elsewhere to apply their expertise and US companies are forced to establish offices overseas in order to take advantage of their talents.

The perception that H-1B workers make less money and adversely impact the wages and working conditions of their US counterparts is a mistaken one. Although there were and are US companies that abuse the current H-1B system by not employing their foreign workers in accordance with pledges made in their visa petition filings, the answer should be better governmental enforcement of the laws regulating the employment of H-1B workers, not congressional action to massively reduce visa availability.

Be that as it may, Congress has taken its first step toward getting wise to this reality by recently enacting a law to make an additional 20,000 visas available for the current fiscal year. The law has yet to be implemented, but there is a substantial community of US companies, foreign workers and immigration counsel anxiously waiting for permission to access these visas. “Any day now” has been the word on the street for the past month, yet it is still not clear if it will only be graduates of US advanced degree programs or anyone with the equivalent of a university degree that will be eligible for one of the 20,000.

In the meantime, the companies and foreign workers seeking to play it safe have opted to file visa petitions with a start date of October 1, 2005, the start of the 2006 fiscal year.

Any and all developments in CIS’ implementation of regulations making the new supply of 20,000 visas available will be reported on in this column.

Copyright © 2005-2008, By Law Offices of Richard Hanus, Chicago, Illinois