Contrary to US Citizenship and Immigration Services' prediction that that there would be a mad rush for H-1B visas, the USCIS on Tuesday announced that it has received petitions for only 6,400 of the 20,000 new visas approved by the Congress late last year.
The new regulations, which took effect on May 5, 2005, changed the H-1B filing procedures for FY 2005 and for future fiscal years. The regulations make available 20,000 new H-1B visas, only for foreign workers with a minimum master's level degree from a US academic institution, in addition to the Congressionally mandated annual cap of 65,000 H-1B visas.
Established by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1990, the H-1B visa category allows US employers to augment the existing labour force with highly skilled temporary workers.
H-1B workers are admitted to the United States for an initial period of three years, which may be extended for an additional three years. Typical H-1B occupations include architects, engineers, computer programmers, accountants, doctors and college professors.
The H-1B visa program is utilised by some US businesses to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in a specialised field. Congress created the H-1 B program more than fifty years ago and established an annual cap of 65,000 in 1990.As part of the H-1B program, the Department of Homeland Security requires US employers to meet specific labour conditions to ensure that American workers are not adversely impacted, while the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division safeguards the treatment and compensation of H-1B workers.