US government reaches 85,000 H-1B visa cap in one week

As Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants lobby the government for more high-skilled worker visas, immigration officials say they’ve received too many applications for this coming year.

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FWD.us's list of supporters reads like a who's who of the tech industry, with names like Mark Zuckerberg, Marissa Mayer, Bill Gates, and many more. Screenshot by Dara Kerr/CNET

US immigration officials said Monday that they've received more than enough petitions for next year's batch of H-1B high-skilled temporary worker visas and would be considering no more of them

This year, it only took one week to reach the petition cap.

Every year the US government allows 85,000 high-skilled foreign workers to come work in the United States. Because of demand for these work visas, the government picks who gets to come with a random selection lottery from the petitions it receives. Officials have not yet announced the date they will run this lottery.

The congressionally mandated cap on H-1B visas currently stands at 65,000, with an additional 20,000 made available for foreigners with advanced degrees from US universities. To obtain an H-1B visa, a foreigner must hold at least a bachelor's degree in his or her area of specialty.

The rush for H-1B visas happens every year, with the 85,000 slots quickly being filled. Tech companies prize these visas, since they let the companies bring in engineers and computer programmers from around the world. Visa petitioners tend to not like the lottery system because they say it causes them to lose out on potential hires.

Tech companies like Facebook, Microsoft, and Google have been lobbying the Obama administration and Congress for greater numbers of H-1B visas for years. Last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg launched a political action group called FWD.us, which focuses specifically on immigration reform. As a result, a deep roster of tech executives banded to together to work on the issue.

In a rare bipartisan effort, the US Senate approved an immigration bill last June that, among other measures, calls for increasing H-1B visas. However, the bill has since been stalled in the House.

Many members of the Republican-led House have said they oppose the Senate bill because it is too lax on border security and too generous to illegal immigrants. Despite the republican opposition to the bill, FWD.us and its tech heavy hitters have pledged to continue their lobbying presence with the House, as they did with the Senate.

 

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