A U.S. visa program that has become very popular amongst skilled workers will likely exceed its quota within just days. This will trigger a lottery and signal that companies are being to feel confident the economy is rebounding soundly and they can hire more workers from overseas.
The program, H-1B has not reached its limit of 65,000 this quickly since the beginning of 2008, prior to the economic crisis hitting the world. At that time it was the last time officials had to use a lottery, said U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the government arm that processes these applications.
On Monday the application period started. The USCIS will announce by Wednesday of next week if a lottery will be held for the allotment of visas, said a government spokesperson. The USCIS expects the full quota to be reached for the fiscal year October 1 by this Friday. The cap last year was reached in June. A record number of applications are expected for this year, said a lawyer familiar with the H-1B program.
Companies in the U.S. especially in the technology industry said they need the H-1B visas to fill positions that are vacant. However, some advocacy groups have countered that those companies have been using the current visa program to hire foreign labor that is less expensive.
Even though the quota is only 65,000, far more people enter the country on H-1B visas because workers that are employed at universities and other workplaces are not counted toward the 65,000 limit. Students studying their Masters or PhD from universities in the U.S. are on another quota of visas that is 20,000.
Last year 129,000 H-1B’s were issued by the government, nearly double the official quota.