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Apr 06, 2013 at 12:00pm IST

US: Cap on H-1B visas reached; lottery will decide fate of applicants

Washington: For the first time after 2008, a computerised draw of lots is going to decide on successful H-1B applicants, as a federal US agency has announced that it has received more petitions than the Congressional mandated quota on the most sought after work visas for IT professionals. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Friday announced that it would no longer accept applications for the H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2014 beginning October 1, 2013, the Congressional mandated cap for which is 65,000 as it has received sufficient applications for this.

USCIS has also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption. "USCIS will use a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as the "lottery") for all FY-2014 cap-subject petitions received through April 5, 2013," the statement said.

"The agency will conduct the selection process for advanced degree exemption petitions first. All advanced degree petitions not selected will be part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit," said USCIS which started accepting the applications on Monday. Due to the high number of petitions received, USCIS is not yet able to announce the exact day of the random selection process. Also, USCIS also did not provide the total number of petitions received, noting that it continued to accept filings on Friday.

US: Cap on H-1B visas reached; lottery to decide fate

Due to the high number of petitions received, USCIS is not yet able to announce the exact day of the random selection process.

USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap, the statement said. Meanwhile the US Vice President, Joe Biden, supported the idea of increasing the quota of H-1B visas so as to attract best and the brightest from across the world. Addressing a meeting of Export-Import Bank of the US Biden said he supported "adding additional H1B visas so that American employers can hire the best and brightest, no matter where they come from, if they can't be found here."

As the cap on the H-1B visas reached in the first week itself, the office of the New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, said that this is a missed opportunity to attract the best and the brightest from across the world. "The fact that our supply of H-1B visas was exhausted so quickly is not only emblematic of our broken immigration system - it represents yet another missed opportunity to attract the world's best and brightest to our shores," said John Feinblatt, Chief Policy Advisor to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Chairman of the Partnership for a New American Economy.

"If we want to stay competitive and thrive in the global marketplace, we need to make sure that our immigration laws fit the needs of our economy. Sitting still risks the world passing us by," he said. The Partnership for a New American Economy brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today.

"It basically shows the main problem of this system, which is that there's no way of prioritising. When this takes place, it'll cause a big frenzy," said Neil Ruiz, an associate fellow at the Brookings Institution. "It just shows how H-1B has become a catch-all visa for all highly skilled immigrants," he told The Los Angeles Times.

The lottery for the H-1B cap was last used in April 2008, when the cap was filled on the first day itself. In 2012, it took 73 days for the USCIS to fill in the cap, while it took 235 days to receive applications to

fill the 65,000 H-1B numbers in 2011; 300 days in 2010, and 264 days in 2009. In 2008 and 2007 the caps were reached in the first few days.

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