Washington: The US has started accepting petition for the much sought H-1B work visas, amidst fear from industry experts and officials that the Congressional mandated quota of 65,000 might get filled up in the first week itself.
Officials said the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) would not issue daily update on number of applications received, but will make an announcement when the cap is reached.
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.
The USCIS received H-1B petitions at its two centers -- the Vermont Service Center and the California Service Center - where its officials described business as usual.
Last week, USCIS had said based on feedback from a number of stakeholders, it anticipates that it may receive more petitions than the H-1B cap between April 1, 2013 and April 5, 2013.
As such 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, the federal agency said.
The lottery for the H-1B cap was last used in April 2008, when the cap was filled on the first day itself.
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.
In a statement, the BSA/Software Alliance, a leading global advocate for the software industry, yesterday called on the Congress and Obama Administration to make reforms in the country's antiquated H1B visa system for high-skilled, foreign-born workers an urgent priority.
"It will be frenzy, because the cap of 65,000 visas is nowhere near high enough to meet demand," said BSA president and CEO Robert Holleyman.
"If you didn't know better, you might think the H1B petition-filing frenzy had something to do with April Fools' Day. But it's no joke," he said.
"There are individual software companies with thousands of unfilled jobs in research, product development, and engineering. Across the economy, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that between 2010 and 2020 there will be at least 1.2 million job openings in computing professions that require a bachelor's degree.
But the National Center for Educational Statistics says we're on pace to produce less than half that many graduates," Holleyman said.
"We need a two-pronged solution for this problem, coupling long-term improvements in STEM education with targeted reforms for high-skilled immigration. Ideally, the latter should help fund the former. BSA supports the framework outlined Immigration Innovation Act, known as I-Squared, and we hope Congress will make it an urgent priority," he said.
In a blog post last week, Brad Smith, the general counsel Microsoft said this year, many employers and highly skilled potential workers are facing April 1 with increased anxiety since the US government again expects all the H-1B visas for the upcoming fiscal year to be snatched up in the first week.
"This has significant implications, not just for these workers and their potential employers, but for the broader economy and for job creation here in the US," he wrote.
"This news further underscores the growing STEM talent crisis facing our country. It's a problem that adversely effects every industry all across the US The American economy creates 120,000 new computer-related jobs annually that require a bachelor's degree, but we are currently producing about 51,000 graduates with a degree in computer science each year," Smith wrote.