H1B visas may be decided through lottery this year
Washington: The much sought H-1B work visas could be decided through lottery this year, industry experts and officials feel based on initial feedback from companies, as the US starts accepting applications from on Monday.
If it happens it would be for the first time since 2008 that the fate of thousands of applications for H-1B visas would be decided by a computerised draw of lots.
Even Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said it expects the cap for H-1B visas to be filled in the first five days itself.
According to Congressional approved mandate, USCIS can reward a maximum of 65,000 H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2014 beginning October 1, 2013.
In addition, the USCIS can also reward 20,000 H-1B visas for those having masters or higher degree from US academic institutions. This limit on H-1B visas has been in place for more than two decades now.
For three years from 2001 to 2003, Congress had increased the cap to 195,000; which was not reached.
"Based on feedback from a number of stakeholders, USCIS anticipates that it may receive more petitions than the H-1B cap between April 1, 2013 and April 5, 2013," USCIS said in a statement early this month.
If USCIS receives more petitions than it can accept, it will use a lottery system to randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit.
USCIS will reject petitions that are subject to the cap and are not selected, as well as petitions received after it has the necessary number of petitions needed to meet the cap.
The lottery for the H-1B cap was last used in April 2008, when the cap was filled on the first day itself.
Last year in 2012, it took 73 days for the USCIS to fill in the cap, while in took 235 days to receive applications to fill the 65,000 H-1B numbers in 2011; 300 days in 2010, and 264 days in 2009.
In 2008 and 2007 the caps were reached in the first few days.
"It really is a race. If the cap is reached fast, that will spark controversy," Neil Ruiz, a senior policy analyst at Washington-based Brookings Institution who studies issues involving the visas, told The San Jose Mercury News. He was referring to the on-going debate on H-1B visas in the US.
While major IT companies led by Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Intel and Facebook have been pushing in increasing the H-1B visas, several American professional organizations like IEEE-USA, AFL-CIO have been opposing such a move arguing that this would cost Americans jobs.
While a group of Senators have introduced a legislation that would affect major Indian IT companies, another group of Senators are mulling significant increase in H-1B visa fee.