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Bloggings: USCIS Reaches H-1B Cap in the First Week. At Least 50,000 Petitions Estimated to Have Been Received on the First Day. By Roger Algase

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The warning that USCIS issued on March 15 that the 2014 H-1B cap might be reached during the first application week may have turned out to have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. On April 5, USCIS announced that the cap for this coming fiscal year had been reached in the first week and that there will be lotteries for both the regular 65,000 annual quota category and the additional 20,000 US master degree holder visas.


USCIS did not announce how many petitions had been received or when the lotteries will take place. It merely said that a "high" number of petitions had come in. However, an April 4 article in Computer World estimated that at least 50,000 to 60,000 cap subject petitions came in on the first day. This was based on information from a private contractor, FCi Federal, which provides extra staff to help USCIS handle the volume. 


According to the same article, the number of petitions fell off sharply in the second day, April 2. Still, even if the State of Denmark is in good shape, unlike the situation in Hamlet, there is still something rotten in the H-1B quota system. Or as a famous Danish philosopher put it, "fear and trembling" is the only good way to describe the reaction of at least tens of thousands of US employers and highly skilled foreign professionals while they wait for the wheel of fortune to spin yet again.


Just to give two examples from my own practice, a small high tech start-up company developing an advanced e-commerce platform is waiting to find out if it will be able to hire a software developer at a six figure salary nearly double the official prevailing wage. 


And a large health care provider will have to wait to see if it can hire a bachelor degree nursing graduate for an important managerial job, also at close to a six figure annual salary.


What stands out more than anything else about the H-1B visa shortage is the sheer hypocrisy of our politicians, who complain endlessly about how many low-skilled workers there are in the US, with or without legal permission, and harp on the need to switch to a "merit-based" immigration system.


This mantra is then used as an excuse for increased enforcement and more border security (which mainly benefit the private prison industry), as well as a pretext to cut family immigration quotas (meaning fewer Latino voters in future elections).


But when the issue is actually making enough visas available for high skilled professionals, then all the old prevailing falsehoods about educated American workers having their jobs "stolen" by "slave labor" from overseas are trotted out, and nothing is done to raise the H-1B quotas.


To be sure, US employers and foreign professionals are victims of this hypocrisy and cynicism. But H-1B workers are here to help the US economy grow. When we keep them out or force them to return home, America itself is the biggest loser of all.


 



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