by Ken Robinson, Attorney and ImmigRanter at Slowik & Robinson, LLC
Congress, the Department of Homeland Security, United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL), and the U.S. Department of State have been making the process for obtaining H-1B visas progressively more difficult over the years, placing annual numerical limitations (the H-1B “cap”) on the number of visas available in that category, adopting adjudication policies with ever higher and often unreasonable standards, and modifying government interpretations as to the definition of employer. The H-1B visa is the workhorse of temporary employment visas in the arsenal of visa classifications. It is often used by foreign students who come to the U.S. to begin their careers here – students who contribute to areas where our workforce is lacking – most notably in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.
The cap for H-1B visas is set at 65,000 for “traditional” H-1Bs and another 20,000 for those beneficiaries who have graduated with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. Despite a greater demand than inventory, the cap has not increased in over a decade. The demand for H-1B visa workers has increased significantly after a temporary decline during the most recent recession. An H-1B visa lottery is now held when the number of U.S. employer petitions outnumber the available visas.