The U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on Thursday said the maximum number of H-1B visas—which enable foreigners in high-tech positions to work in the United States—to be issued in 2007 has already been reached, months before the fiscal year begins on Oct. 1, the Associated Press reports via USA Today.
The fact that the cap was met before the fiscal year commenced—for the fourth year in a row—stresses the viewpoint of high-tech firms that say the 65,000-person yearly limit should be increased, according to the AP.
The U.S. Senate passed legislation that would boost the cap to 115,000; however, a similar House bill leaves the issue unaddressed, and legislators may not be able to draft another bill that includes an H-1B cap increase, the AP reports.
“There’s much more demand for highly educated folks in specialty occupations, and we hurt our competitiveness when we don’t allow American companies to access the talent they need,” said Sandy Boyd, a vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, according to the AP.
USCIS first started accepting applications for fiscal 2007 H-1B visas, which cost companies $3,185 for six years, on April 1, and the limit was reached less than two months later on May 26, the AP reports.
Companies looking to hire foreign high-tech workers for fiscal 2008, which starts on Oct. 1, 2007, will have to wait until April 1, 2007 to apply, according to the AP.
The Senate legislation also includes provisions that would allow the annual cap to increase by up to 20 percent a year based on demand and enable foreigners with specific degrees or honors to be exempt from the limit, the AP reports. Exemptions already exist for some people who hold specialized degrees or who plan to work at colleges or nonprofit organizations, according to the AP.
On the flip side, U.S. tech workers and other critics fear that increasing the cap will only lead to fewer Americans filling technology-related positions, and in turn, a decrease in technology interest and efficiency in American students.
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