Lottery to process H-1B applications that hit cap again
In less than five days after it started receiving applications for H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2017 beginning October 1, 2016, the US said on Friday that the Congressional-mandated cap for the visas has been reached.india Updated: Apr 09, 2016 02:56 IST
For the fourth year running, the United States will use a lottery to select highly skilled foreigners it will allow its companies to hire temporarily under the H-1B visa programme in 2017.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which runs the scheme, announced on Thursday it had received more applications for these visas than it can grant. It did not disclose the number of applications received.
Thus the lottery, which it first used in 2014. USCIS began accepting applications for 2017 just a week ago. A date for the lottery will be announced subsequently.
There is a congressionally mandated annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas in the general category of those hired abroad, with 20,000 selected from among foreigners enrolled in US universities.
Indian firms operating in the US are known to get a large number of them — 16,573 went to seven companies in 2014, including TCS, Infosys, Wipro and Tech Mahindra.
The seven firms were also among the top 20 recipient companies, according to data published by The New York Times in 2015. Numbers may have changed since, but not the trend.
Opponents of the programme allege US employers are using H-1Bs to bring foreign workers to replace local employees who, they contend, are similarly skilled but far costlier.
The issue takes on political overtones during elections as it has now, with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump supporting a short-term pause in the programme to review its impact.
He has since reviewed his position and, at his last encounter with the issue, said the US should keep more Indian students studying here from returning home since they are smart.
But experts, including Tuck Business School’s Matt Slaughter, who recently surveyed H-1B employers, contend the backlash is based mostly on anecdotal evidence of displacements.
Sound public policy cannot be based on “anecdotes but data distribution”, Slaughter told Hindustan Times in an interview about his survey and its findings.
Supporters of the programme have argued for it to be expanded massively. A 2013 Senate bill proposed the cap be raised to 180,000 from the current 85,000.
The bill, which had bipartisan support and was backed by President Barack Obama, didn’t make it past the House of Representative because of differences on other issues.
Given the speed with which applications touched the cap since 2014, there is clearly a rising demand among US employers for highly skilled foreign workers.
In 2011, for instance, the cap wasn’t reached for 300 days after the process was thrown open, traditionally on April 1. The situation has changed remarkably since.
But this is not the end of the H-1B process for 2017, USCIS said in its announcement. It will continue to accept applications under other heads, such as H-1B extensions.