TAIPEI, Taiwan Thinking about applying for an H-1B visa? Don't. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said it's already reached its quota for the year just a day after it began accepting applications. It took about two months to reach that point last year.
By late Monday afternoon, USCIS had already been flooded with 150,000 H-1B petitions. It can only accept 65,000. Many of those workers will go to tech companies, such as Microsoft Corp., Oracle Corp., and Intel Corp.
Those lucky enough to get in before the door closed will have to cross their fingers and hope that they survive the next round. To be fair, USCIS said it will randomly select the winners of H-1Bs from among the entire pool.
Unfortunately for the applicants, that won't happen for several weeks, which is about how long it will take for USCIS to input all the data.
Any petitions received on Wednesday will be rejected, USCIS said in a statement.
It also cautioned employers not to worry if they are contacted by multiple USCIS service centers regarding the receipt of applicant petitions. Because of the large number of applicants, the agency will be spreading out the data entry work among various service centers and that may generate duplicate notices.
H-1B visas have long been controversial in the IT industry. Some argue that it takes jobs away from US workers or gives employers an option to hire people willing to work for less. Proponents believe that the foreign workers help fill a shortage in certain skills. In response to heavy lobbying by companies, the cap was temporarily raised to 195,000 in fiscal years 2001-2003.
A long-running debate has also focused on foreign students who earn graduate degrees in the US and then are shipped home, where they may boost the brain power of companies that will compete with US firms. Currently, the H-1B visa program exempts the first 20,000 H-1B petitions from foreign students with US-earned masters' or PhD degrees.
USCIS said it did not know how many of these exemptions were mixed in with the 150,000 petitions received Monday. That, too, may take several weeks to sort through.
For those who lost out, the next chance comes on April 1, 2008.