The H-1B visa allows foreign workers in specialty occupations to stay in the United States for three years, during which time they are temporarily employed by a U.S. company. Applicants must have the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement, and the H-1B program has an annual cap of 65,000.
For the fiscal year 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services declared back in November that the cap had been reached and that subsequent H-1B visa applications arriving after November 22 would be rejected. The 65,000 cap was reached earlier than last year by about two months, with H-1B visas being available until January for the fiscal year 2011.
There are various exceptions to the H-1B visa that allow the number of foreign workers under this law to surpass the 65,000 cap. One example of this is the Advanced Degree Exemption, or ADE cap. Under this rule, the first 20,000 H-1B visa applicants that have attained a Master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution do not count against the cap.
There are also cap exemptions for foreign workers who are employed at universities or non-profit research facilities. In 2010, over 117,000 people were issued H-1B visas, and considering the how quickly the cap was hit this year, it seems that number will go up in 2011.
Computer professionals, engineers, and professors are common fields for H-1B visas, as Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and Intel are four of the top six employers receiving H-1B visas, according to a 2006 study.
Despite reaching the cap, the USCIS will still process petitions filed for H-1B visa extensions, change of employment terms or changing employers for H-1B workers and allowing current workers with a visa to concurrently work a second H-1B position.
Source: Bilingual Weekly, “H-1B Visas reached Cap for the Fiscal Year 2012,” Dec. 5, 2011