Record number of H-1B visas leads to push for immigration reform

The USCIS reports that 233,000 applications were received for the limited H-1B visa program.

More technologically savvy immigrants than ever are attempting to receive work visas to the United States. The government agency in charge of these visas, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, reports that it has already received more than the limit of applications for the congressionally mandated H-1B visa cap for the fiscal year of 2016. More specifically, the agency has received 233,000 applications. The agency made the announcement on April 7, just six days after the filing period opened. The large number of petitions for this visa is striking in comparison to the mandated cap of 85,000 visas.

Businesses within the tech industry continue to push for congressional reform, calling for an increase in the cap. The Council for Global Immigration, an advocate for reform, stated that employers attempting to utilize available world talent only had a 36 percent chance of receiving an H-1B visa this year. Reuters also reported that Compete America, a group representing tech industries like Facebook and Microsoft, claims the country looses out on 500,000 jobs due to these relatively low visa caps.

More on the H-1B visa

The H-1B visa program is used by U.S. businesses to provide jobs for foreign workers in specialty occupations like science, engineering and computer programming. These positions generally require a bachelor's degree or higher. The job in question must be unique, able to be performed only by a person with a degree or specialized training.

Only 65,000 of these visas are provided each fiscal year. An additional 20,000 are set aside for those with a U.S. master's degree or higher. The agency uses a computer-generated random selection process to determine which applicants receive the visa. This is referred to as a lottery system.

Legal counsel can help

It is important to note that the federal agency will continue to process certain H-1B applications that do not fall within the cap. These include petitions by current H-1B visa holders to:

  • Extend the amount of time a current H-1B visa holder can remain within the United States
  • Change the terms of employment for a current H-1B visa holder
  • Change employers
  • Add a second H-1B position

Whether attempting to receive a work visa or naturalization as an individual or business, it is wise to seek the counsel of an experienced immigration attorney. This legal professional can review the details of your situation and guide you through the process, working to better ensure approval and a smooth transition.

Keywords: immigration law work visas