The number of H-1B visa applications received by the United State Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
for the 2016 Fiscal Year has hit a record high. The USCIS announced last Tuesday that the annual cap had been reached just seven days after the application window had opened, but details of just how many applications were received had only just emerged. In total, over 233,000 foreigners applied for the H-1B, the most common visa for high-skilled foreign workers, in those seven days – the statutory cap is 65,000 with a further 20,000 places set aside for applicants with advanced degrees. This is significantly higher than the 172,500 applications received last year in the same week-long period, and getting on for nearly double the applicants from two years ago (124,000). Many companies across America, those in the technology sector in particular, have long been lobbying for the government to increase the number of H-1B visas awarded each year. While there does appear to be broad bipartisan support for such measures, continued squabbles over immigration reform as a complete package are harming any chances of the quota being raised anytime soon. It is important to note, however, that USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap will also not be counted towards the congressionally mandated FY 2016 H-1B cap. Therefore USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:
- Extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the United States;
- Change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
- Allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
- Allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.