Only 10K petitions filed for H-1B visas

Demand falling far short of 65,000 cap

For the third year in a row, demand is sharply lagging for H-1B skilled worker visas, according to figures released today by the Homeland Security Department.

Since April 1, when the application period opened, 5,900 H-1B visa petitions have been received that are counted toward the congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 such visas to be awarded in the current fiscal year, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said in a news release.


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An additional 4,500 petitions have been received for the 20,000 H-1B visas available to individuals with advanced degrees, which are exempted from the cap.

The H-1B visa program for scientists, engineers, programmers and other skilled workers was created by Congress two decades ago to increase competitiveness and innovation for American businesses. Federal IT contractors have supported the program and lobbied for expansion of the number of visas. At the same time, many IT workers believe the visas dampen wages, and the Government Accountability Office has said that protections for U.S. workers are weak.

Under the current system, employers file petitions for H-1B foreign workers each April 1. In previous years the cap often was reached in hours or days. In 2007, 163,000 H-1B petitions were filed within five days, and a lottery was held to distribute the visas. In 2008, the cap was met in eight days.

In 2009 and 2010, due to the recession, it took eight months and nine months, respectively, to reach the cap.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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