H1B visas: A review of FY 2009-10

The H1B visa program is unlikely to reach its cap of 65,000 before the start of the 2010 fiscal with nearly 20,000 vacancies amid the economic downturn. This has happened for the first time in several years that the demand for the visas, which is mostly availed by Indian professionals, has slowed down.

Also due to a large number of rejections of H-1B petitions, this figure of 20,000 vacancies has remained almost the same for the past two months. Past figures indicate that Indian IT professionals have been a major beneficiary of H1B visas. An additional 20,000 H1B can also be issued to those foreign professionals, who have masters or higher degree from the U.S. Though the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received 20,000 petitions, it continues to accept applications in this category.

We have already shared the latest figures released by the USCIS for the H1B petitions until August 7. Nearly more than four months after the U.S. immigration agency started accepting petitions for the H1B visas for highly-skilled foreign professionals, it is still looking for nearly 20,000 applications to fill the Congressionally-mandated cap of 65,000. Besides the current economic downturn, also certain provisions in the economic stimulus package, the H1B petitions to the USCIS centers are now coming in ones and twos. The economic stimulus package prevents hiring of foreign workers by companies receiving federal aid money.

This is in contrast to the last few years, when the USCIS had to resort to computerized draw of lots as it received petitions outnumbering several times more than the Congressional mandated cap of 65,000 within the first few days after it started receiving H1B applications. According to USCIS, it will continue to accept both cap-subject petitions and advanced degree petitions until a sufficient number of H1B petitions have been received to reach the statutory limits, taking into account the fact that some of these petitions may be denied, revoked, or withdrawn.