For the first time in several years the H1B visa programme, once the most sought after among Indian professionals, is unlikely to reach its cap of 65,000 before the start of the 2010 fiscal with nearly 20,000 slots lying vacant thanks to the tattered US economy.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services said it has received approximately 49,000 H1Bpetitions till August seven counting toward the Congressionally-mandated 65,000 cap, more than four months after it started accepting applications for visas for the 2010 fiscal begining this October.
This is in contrast to the previous years when the USCIS had to resort to computerised draw of lots as it received petitions outnumbering several times more than the Congressional mandated cap of 65,000 within the first few days after it started receiving H-1B applications.
The figure of 20,000 slots in the vacant category has remained almost the same for the past two months. This is also due to a large number of rejections of H-1B petitions.
Indian IT professionals have been a major beneficiary of H-1B visas, figures released in the past have said.
An additional 20,000 H-1B can also be issued to those foreign professionals, who have masters or higher degree from the US. Though the USCIS received 20,000 petitions, it continues to accept applications in this category.
For the fiscal 2010, the USCIS started receiving H-1B petitions from April 1. In the first five working days, it received 42,000 H-1B petitions. In the month and half since then, USCIS has received just 7,000 more H-1B petitions.
This is mainly attributed to the current economic crisis and the tougher measures being adopted by the USCIS and the State Department in sanctioning of H-1B visas.In 2007 and 2008 the caps were reached in the first few days itself - April 2 and April 1-5 respectively.
In 2007 and 2006, the H-1B cap in the general categories were reached on May 26 and July 26 respectively, while in 2005 it was reached on August 10. In 2004, the USCIS had to wait till October 1, before it stopped accepting H-1B petitions for the fiscal 2005, while the fiscal year 2004, it took 10 months to reach the cap.
The cap could not be reached in 2001, 2002 and 2003, when the Congress had mandated 195,000 H-1B visas instead of 65,000. For the years 2000 and 1999, the Congress had sanctioned 115,000 H-1B visas. While for the fiscal 2000, it was on July 21, cap exceeded.
From 1992 to 1997, when the Congress had mandated 65,000 H-1B visas, the cap was not reached.