U.S. immigration attorneys have cautioned that 2014′s quota of 65,000 H-1B “specialty occupation” visas may have all been assigned in just one week this past April.
Any employer based in the U.S. who wants to employ a specialty occupation foreign worker is required to apply to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an H-1B visa. If granted, the H-1B visa is issued to the worker. Typically, the worker will need to have, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree. They may also have an advanced level of skill which would be considered “degree equivalent” via their previous experience, training or somehow otherwise qualified.
H-1Bs visa have a three-year term and can be renewed once for an additional three-year term. H-1B holders are also able to apply for permanent residency status (commonly known as a “green card”) while they are in the States, if they meet the requirements. They can apply for an extension of their H-1B visas while waiting to have their permanent residency application processed.
The cap for the number of H-1Bs visas which are granted annually has stayed at 65,000 since 2004. For years prior that 2004, the number of visas issued was frozen at 195,000. Some 20,000 H-1Bs are granted to Ph.D. and Masters’ degree holders from U.S. colleges and universities. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (US CIS) will be accepting H-1B applications in April of each year for the year which starts the following October. In other words, applications for 2014 will cover the year that starts in October 2013, and will be accepted as of April 2013.
The cap of 65,000 has been reached faster every year: in 2010, the applications cap was reached by December, 2010. In 2011, the cap was reached by January, 2011. For 2012, the cap was reached by November, 2011, and for 2013, the cap was reached in only two-and-a-half months, by June, 2012. Critics are concerned that the upcoming year’s quota may be reached in mere weeks.
Any individual interested in an H-1B visa is advised to apply as soon as they can. U.S. employers interested in hiring foreign workers with H-1B visas should be aware that the cap will be reached quickly and they should get those applications in quickly, as well.
The Senate introduced the Immigration Innovation Bill in January 2013. It is designed to immediately boost the H-1B cap to 115,000, and allow the number of H-1Bs to rise to as much as 300,000.
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