U.S. Expects 20,000 H-1B Visas To Go Quickly
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service
Department (USCIS) is opening wide its doors Thursday for
20,000 foreign nationals who wish to obtain H-1B visas.
By W. David
May 11, 2005
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
Service Department (USCIS) is opening wide its doors Thursday
for 20,000 foreign nationals who wish to obtain
H1B visas. The visas are expected to be snapped up swiftly
by educated, foreign-born workers eager for jobs in the U.S.
In fiscal year 2002 and 2003, the latest figures available,
about 38% of visa petitions were for computer-related
occupations, according to media reports.
Visa restrictions were tightened in the wake of the
September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Heads of U.S. companies
have complained that they have had trouble finding enough
qualified employees and many have urged the USCIS to loosen
the reins on visas for qualified workers.
"My suspicion is that these 20,000 visas will be used up
very quickly," said Jonathan Meindersma, an attorney who has
handled hundreds of H1B applications. "I'm suggesting that
applicants get their cases prepared and do it quickly." He
added that many of the applicants have high-tech and IT
Thursday's activity is for those with advanced degrees from
U.S. universities; applicants with degrees from foreign
colleges don't qualify for H1B visas, said Meindersma. "People
without advanced degrees must wait until October," he added.
The previous H1B quota of 65,000 was filled on the first
day of fiscal year eligibility on Oct 1, 2004. Congress
granted an additional 20,000 visas for holders of advanced
degrees. Meindersma believes the 20,000 positions could be
filled in weeks, even days.
The attorney noted that there are different categories for
educated foreign workers. Many have been classified under the
"Optional Practical Training" (OPT) category, a temporary
status that can enable an employee to work while waiting for a
visa. Other categories permit foreign specialists to stay in
the U.S., but they can't begin working until specifically
Less than a month ago, Microsoft's Bill Gates told a
technology seminar in Washington D.C. that Microsoft was
struggling to find enough qualified employees and he called on
the USCIS and Congress to relax visa restrictions. "We are
very concerned that the U.S. will lose its competitive
position," Gates said at the time, according to media reports.
"The jobs are there, and they are good-paying jobs, but we
don't have the same pipeline."
Meindersma cited a hypothetical case that he says is likely
to affect students graduating this June with advanced degrees:
Even though the students will graduate soon, certification
should be prepared in advance. Students can qualify for visas
before their commencement exercises, if their graduation
requirements have been met. In such cases, a few days could be
the difference between getting a visa and being turned down.
"Employers seeking to hire those meeting the eligibility
criteria would be wise to start preparing cases immediately,"
Workers without advanced degrees seeking visas may apply
for visas with an H1B status on October 1.
Filing fees are $750 for applicants in companies with fewer
than 25 employees and $1,500 for applicants in companies with
more than 25 employees.