U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on Wednesday that it had received enough H-1B visa petitions to reach the statutory cap of 65,000 for fiscal year (FY) 2012. According to USCIS, Nov. 22, 2011, was the final receipt date for new H-1B petitions for start dates in FY 2012, which began on October 1. H-1B visas are for occupations that require, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree for entry into the particular profession.
On September 9, two and a half months earlier, USCIS had reported that only 32,200 petitions for H-1B visas have been received for fiscal year (FY) 2012. That is less than half the total number of new H-1B visas available for each FY. (An additional 20,000 H-1B visas are available for persons who hold master’s degrees or higher from U.S. colleges and universities. That cap was reached on October 19.) Because employers can begin filing H-1B petitions on April 1, this means it took a little over 5 months to get almost half way to the cap, and it looked like the supply would not be exhausted for a few more months.
There has been no indication as to what caused the sudden two-month flurry of H-1B activity. It certainly wasn’t due to any significant development in the U.S. economy.
The result is that U.S. employers wanting to hire well-educated foreign workers will not be able to bring them on board until October 1, 2012, the start of FY 2013. Commenting on the outmoded H-1B quota system, Eleanor Pelta, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association stated, “To be more competitive globally, we really should be smarter about our high skilled visa distribution so that it is related to market needs instead of pinned to a static limit that was determined by Congress in the last decade.”
USCIS will continue to process H-1B visa petitions for current H-1B workers needing to extend their stays in the U.S., or whose terms of employment are changing, as well as for persons to be employed by non-profit organizations and institutions of higher education, as these are exempt from the cap.