H-1B cap for 2009 reached, lottery to commence

USCIS received enough H-1B petitions to conduct random lottery for 65,000 slots and 20,000 additional master's degree applicants


U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it has received enough petitions for FY 2009 H-1B visa to meet mandated cap.

Sponsor employers and individuals who applied for one of 65,000 H-1B visas for 2009 must wait to learn if their petition will be selected during a random lottery process set to begin now that the filing cap has been reached.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced Tuesday that it had received by April 7, 2008 enough petitions for the 65,000 H-1B visas available for fiscal year 2009 to meet the "congressionally mandated cap." The government agency, which extended the acceptance period to five business days to improve the fairness of the process, also announced it had received enough applications for the 20,000 H-1B visas allocated for the "advanced degree" exemption limit to meet the mandated cap.

The applications received will now be subject to a random lottery process for selection to determine which individuals can start working at their sponsor companies Oct. 1, 2008. Before running the random selection process, USCIS will complete initial data entry for all filings received during the filing period ending on April 7, 2008. USCIS says it will first conduct the advanced degree random selection and that "advanced degree petitions not selected will be part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit."

Industry groups that support revising the H-1B program say this year's process mirrored last year's, in which the USCIS received more than 123,000 applications in less than two days. 

The shortage of applications proves the program needs to be updated to better meet U.S. workforce needs, according to Compete America.

"U.S. employers deserve better than a random lottery to determine if they can hire highly educated candidates they need," said Robert Hoffman, vice president for government and public affairs at Oracle and co-chair of Compete America, in a written statement in response to the cap being reached this week.

According to the industry group, this year is the first in which the cap for both the general and advanced degree H-1B visas were reached during the filing period and the second year that the overall cap has been reached in the same time. The low cap sends talented workers, educated in the United States, to find employment elsewhere, Hoffman said.

"Despite the proven contributions of highly educated workers to America and the well-documented demand for the H-1B visas and employment based green cards that bring and keep them here, artificially low caps shut out some of the world's brightest talent," he said.

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