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'H-1B quota may fill up in the first few days'
Lalit K Jha in Washington | March 05, 2009 19:00 IST
Amid speculation that there would be reduction in number of H-1B visas, which has attracted large number of Indian professionals, a top immigration expert has said that the quota of 65,000 will get capped as the filing opens on April 1.
"This year, with the economy in a recession and in view of widespread layoffs, the general expectation is that there may not be as many petitions as the previous years," said immigration attorney Morley J Nair.
In 2008, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received about 163,000 petitions including 31,200 against the US advanced degree category in the first five days of filing, so a random lottery was conducted. A similar procedure was followed in 2007.
Even with a drastically reduced number of petitions, Nair said there is the likelihood that the quota would get capped in the first couple of days.
"Even a reduction of 55 per cent from last year in the general quota and 35 per cent in the advanced degree quota would do it," he said in a statement. "So, I would urge potential employers to be proactive and get ready to file the cap-subject H-1B petitions on April 1 itself," he said.
Top Indian IT companies account for the largest chunk of the H-1B work visas. Just four Indian companies alone last year accounted for more than 10,000 H-1B visas.
At present the annual quota of H-1B visas is 65,000, out of which 6,800 are reserved for nationals of Singapore and Chile. Indian professionals account for the majority of the H-1B visas.
Additionally, there is a special quota of 20,000 visas for holders of advanced degrees from US graduate schools.
`Further, certain employers (mainly in academic and research areas) are exempt from this quota.
Indian professionals and top IT chiefs have earlier asked the the US Congress and the Obama Administration to remove the cap on H-1B visas, which enable foreign nationals to live and work in the United States.
The Fiscal Year starts on October 1, and petitions can be filed up to six month ahead of the start of employment, so the filing opens on April 1.
Another factor in reaching the cap quickly, Nair said would be the thousands of foreign students in the US whose advanced degree category petitions were not picked in the lottery last year and who would be candidates again this time, in addition to those graduated later, putting more demand on that category.