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H-1B Petitions Hit Record High For 2nd Year In A Row


Law360, Los Angeles (April 12, 2016, 9:19 PM ET) -- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said Tuesday that it received more than 236,000 H-1B petitions for skilled foreign workers in only seven days, breaking the record set last year for the highly popular visa, according to an agency spokeswoman.

The agency said last week that it had already reached the annual cap for the visas after just a week of accepting applications, and after running a lottery April 9 to see which applications would be processed, it found it had received about 3,000 more than last year’s count.

USCIS accepts 65,000 applicants for its general category of H-1B visas and 20,000 with advanced degrees. In Saturday’s computer generated random lottery selection, the agency chose its 20,000 advanced degree petitions first and then dropped the remainder of the advanced-degree applicants into the general pool, it said.

“USCIS will reject and return all unselected petitions with their filing fees, unless the petition is found to be a duplicate filing,” the agency said.

Last year, USCIS received a record-breaking 233,000 H-1B petitions in just five business days, a number that the agency said at the time was likely a record. The figure surpassed the previous year’s total of 172,500 petitions by about 35 percent.

The agency had only started accepting H-1B petitions for the annual cap for fisal year 2017 on April 1. Like last year, the agency’s announcement of the cap being reached came only a few days after filing began.

The H-1B program allows skilled, foreign temporary employees to work in specialty occupations and is popular with tech and information technology companies. According to data from USCIS, the three companies with the largest number of approved H-1B petitions in the 2014 fiscal year were IT consulting firms: Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Cognizant Tech Solutions US and Infosys Ltd.

Some immigration advocacy groups have worried that a limited H-1B pool would force talented foreign-born startup founders out of the country. This concern is so great that last year, Partnership for a New American Economy and launched a campaign focused on the issue.

Also last year, Intel Corppled with Congress to increase the cap for skilled workers. Lisa Malloy, Intel’s director of government relations, argued in a blog post on the company’s website that the nation has a “high-skilled workforce shortage” in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, with the company currently saddled with more than 1,000 engineer job openings in the U.S.

There is currently proposed legislation aimed at reforming the H-1B visa program that would create a “layoff cool-off period,” as well as a proposal that would cut by 15,000 the annual number of H-1B visas available for foreign nationals in “specialty” occupations and allocate them based on wages.

The bill, Senate Bill 2266, also known as the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2015, was read twice in November and tabled, according to congressional records.