US Restriction On H-1B Visas

The recently imposed restriction on H-1B visas that prohibit employers from filing more than one petition for an employee in the fiscal year, did not go down too well with many people, as was expected.

In fact, there have been demands from various US employers to raise the cap on H-1B visas. A new study reveals that American businesses are finding it difficult to fill the skilled positions, even with the large number of foreign professionals coming to US on H-1B visas.

These quotas on H-1B visas have been a sore spot for a long time with companies like Microsoft and other high technology companies. Even heads of education are miffed with these visa rules that have become even more strict post 9/11. The Institute of International Education estimated that the number of foreign students coming into the US to study has dropped since 2003, for the first time in more than 30 years. It blamed the decline to stricter visa rules and increased competition from other foreign universities.

US businesses actually benefit from the issue of H-1B visas to employ foreign workers in various fields where practical and theoretical expertise in certain specialized occupations needs a Bachelors or a higher degree, including engineers, computer programmers and scientists.

The current cap on these visas is 65000 per fiscal year. US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reveal that the first 20,000 H-1B petitions files by foreigners with US-earned masters degree or higher are exempt from this cap.

According to USCIS, there are a few more exceptions that are exempt from this cap. If the foreigners wish to come to US on H-1B visas to work for affiliated non profit entities, non profit research organizations, government research organizations or specific higher education institutions, they will be granted visas regardless of the visa availability.

The USCIS will start receiving H-1B visa petitions from April 1, 2008 for fiscal year 2009. Once the above mentioned caps are reached, they will randomly approve the visas from among the petitions received on the last date of receipt.

The reason for this restriction is being given by the USCIS as an intention to promote fair and systematic process for H-1B petitioners. They say that this rule will ensure that all companies applying for H-1B petitions will be given an equal chance to receive H-1B visa for their workers.

Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates contends that a cap on these visas is what forces Americans to outsource jobs. He has repeatedly requested the US Congress to let more foreign engineers work in the high tech firms, as these firms are having to outsource jobs to overseas companies. Gates even went on to add that the increased caliber of research institutions in India and China means the cap on visas will pose a big threat to America’s competitiveness.

In fact, when he was asked what he would do if he could write US law, Bill Gates is said to have promptly replied that he would certainly get rid of the H-1B visa caps.

In spite of all these contentions, the USCIS went ahead and imposed the restriction on H-1B visas. A survey shows that many people are of the opinion that this sort of thinking threatens to harm the economic future of America, with the US companies being given limited access to the skilled professionals, who are needed for the growth of US companies. When this happens, more and more companies will be looking to place more of their human resources outside the United States, which is certainly not what the US government wants.

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