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The H-1B quota of 65,000 has been exhausted within the first five days beginning April 1 for the fourth consecutive year, highlighting the demand for IT and the shortage of skilled IT professionals in the US. This is a contrast to the 235 days and 73 days it took in 2012 and 2013, respectively , to reach the cap set by the US Congress. A computer-generated process will randomly select the petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 for the general category and 20,000 for individuals who have obtained master’s degrees from the United States.It is like winning the lottery.

H1B Visas are non-immigrant visas intended for workers who possess specialty skills, which typically require a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“If the USCIS receives enough (or more) cases to fill the cap within the first five business days, it stops accepting new cases. If the USCIS receives more cases than the numbers allowed, a lottery is conducted,” says Immigration and business attorney Indu Liladhar-Hathi who has an office in San Jose.

Many individuals learned from last year, it’s crucial to submit a petition as soon as the window opens. The 2015-2016 H1B cap is 85,000 petitions. The regular quota (first category) allots 65,000 petitions. The second category is reserved for the Masters’ quota and sets aside an additional 20,000. In conjunction with the Free Trade Agreement, 6,800 spots are reserved for citizens of Singapore and Chile as part of the 65,000 regular quota.

It’s commonly known that USCIS will revoke or deny any duplicated petitions they receive that are filed by an employer for one individual however, they allow petitions for multiple employers for the same person. H1Bs are also not limited to only full-time specialty workers. When it comes to the number of hours you can work on the visa, it’s pretty flexible so part-time workers apply as well.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Service did not give out the number of applications it got but said it had received enough H-1B petitions to reach the cap for 2017. The tripling of fee for the H-1B US work visa application does not appear to have had any impact on the number of applications for the visa that Indian IT companies have filed. An additional fee of $4,000 was levied for H-1B petitioners that would apply to companies that employ 50 or more employees in the United States, with more than 50% of those employees in H-1B or L non immigrant status.

There are other ways to circumvent the annual cap. If the vis applicant has been counted against the cap in prior years and hasn’t reached the maximum 6 year limit then they may qualify for an exemption to the cap.

Another exemption is if the petition has been filed by a nonprofit organization, or institute of higher learning. In that case, the applicant may not be subject to the cap.

Vandana Kumar

Vandana Kumar is a publishing executive with a 35-year track record in the industry. She leads the India Currents Foundation as President and CEO. As a new immigrant, she co-founded India Currents magazine...