H-1B cap for 2008 reached in record time

In less than two days, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received 150,000 applications for 65,000 slots

Employers looking to keep skilled foreign workers on staff in 2008 this week rushed to file some 150,000 petitions with the U.S agency doling out 65,000 H-1B visas.

Employers looking to keep skilled foreign workers on staff in 2008 this week rushed to file some 150,000 petitions with the U.S. agency doling out 65,000 H-1B visas.

Yet the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service announced this week it had reached its limit for 2008 H-1B visa petitions within a day of the set deadline. The government agency reported it had received about 150,000 applications for 65,000 slots by Monday afternoon and that it would not review petitions received after April 3. In fact, all petitions received on or after April 4 will be immediately rejected.

According to the USCIS, the Immigration Act of 1990 H-1B nonimmigrant visa category lets U.S. employers augment the existing labor force with highly skilled temporary workers. H-1B workers are admitted to the United States for an initial period of three years, which may be extended for an additional three years.

The much-sought-after H-1B visa helps U.S. employers keep foreign citizens in specialty occupations, including architects, engineers, computer programmers, accountants, doctors and college professors, among other professions.

Technology companies in particular look to increase the cap to double its current limit. For instance, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), whose backers include Apple, Dell, eBay and Intel, last year asked that the cap be raised to 115,000.

As for available 2008 H-1B visas, the USCIS will subject the petitions received on April 2 and April 3 to a computer-generated random-selection process, according to an agency press release. The agency does not expect to conduct the random selection for several weeks, considering the high volume of filings.

All petitions not randomly selected by the USCIS will be returned to the applicants and are eligible to be resubmitted on April 1, 2008, when another lot of H-1B visas become available for fiscal 2009.

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