On April 1, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting new applications for the H-1B visa. Within the first week of the new application period, the agency received nearly twice as many petitions as it could accept for the whole year. In 2012, when companies were more reluctant to hire new employees, it took weeks before the maximum number of new applications was received.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant work visa for foreigners in specialty occupations. A specialty occupation is a job that requires you to have high-level qualifications, such as a university degree or equivalent work experience. The H-1B visa allows workers in these types of jobs to live and work in the U.S. with their families for up to six years. The visa program is popular with tech and engineering firms that are eager to recruit workers with advanced skills and training.
The downside of the H-1B program is that the number of new applications granted annually is capped. Only 65,000 visas are available to workers in specialty occupations every year. An additional 20,000 visas are available to workers with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. As this year’s application period showed, the number of visas available is not enough to meet the demand.
Many lawmakers have proposed raising the H-1B visa cap or eliminating it altogether. But for now the cap remains in place, which means that no more H-1B visas can be granted this year. High-skilled workers and business looking for foreign talent must wait until next year to apply. But there are a number of other types of work visas available. In my practice, I have had the opportunity to help many talented workers bring their skills to U.S. companies.