The H-1B visa, the most sought after by Indian IT professionals has opened to a lackluster response, with less than 6,000 applications received after it opened on April 1.
"USCIS has received approximately 5,900 H-1B petitions counting toward the 65,000 cap, and approximately 4,500 petitions toward the 20,000 cap exemption for individuals with advanced degrees," the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said in a statement, a week after it started receiving applications for the visas for the fiscal year 2012 beginning October 1, 2011.
As such, USCIS said it would continue to receive applications for the H-1B visa till the caps are reached. The popular work visa is the most sought after by the computer technology professionals from India.
As mandated by the US Congress, the USCIS will accept petitions for 65,000 H-1B visas.
Additionally, the first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of individuals who have earned a US master's degree or higher are exempt from this 65,000 cap.
If needed, USCIS will randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit from the petitions received on the final receipt date.
Petitions for new H-1B employment are exempt from the annual cap if the beneficiaries will work at institutions of higher education or related or affiliated nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organisations.
US businesses use the H-1B programme to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, such as scientists, engineers, or computer programmers.
The H-1B cap for the fiscal 2011 was reached in January this year and on December 22 for the fiscal 2010.
Till a few years ago the cap was reached within the first few days of USCIS starting to accept H-1B petitions.
As a result, USCIS had to resort to computerized draw of lots to determine successful applicants.
Because of stringent monitoring provisions and general economic recession, there has been a sharp drop in the number of Indian receiving H-1B visas in the last few years, official figures reveal.
For instance the Infosys which received as many as 4,559 H-1B visas in the fiscal 2008 and was on top of the list of companies receiving this coveted work visa for professionals; received just 440 H-1B visas in the fiscal 2009 (October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009), according to the latest figures released by the US immigration services.
Similarly, Wipro, which in 2008 got 2,678 H-1B visas, received just 1,964 H-1B visas in 2009; but still topped the list in the fiscal 2009.
In 2008 four out of the top five companies bagging the maximum number of H-1B visas were grabbed by Indian companies.
These were Infosys (4,559), Wipro (2678), Satyam (1917) and Tata Consultancy Services (1539).
Microsoft with 1037 H1-1B visas was the only US company to figure in top five.