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U.S. hits 2012-2013 fiscal year H-1B visa cap in June

Federal immigration officials say that the cap on H-1B visas has already been reached. The quotas reportedly were reached last month in two areas related to specialty occupations under U.S. business immigration law. The H-1B visa program allows immigrants who have highly specialized knowledge to obtain a temporary non-immigrant visa.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says that the cap on H-1B, which is set at 65.000 visas annually, was reached for the 2012-2013 year on June 11. The second cap of 20,000 visas set aside for immigrants who are securing advanced degrees from universities in the United States had already been reached just days earlier, on June 7.

USCIS officials say that this is the earliest the H-1B visa caps have been reached in a number of years. After the bottom fell out from under the U.S. economy in 2008, petitions for H-1B visas slowed down. The H-1B visa caps were generally not reached in the three cycles following the 2008 economic crisis for seven to ten months. This year's caps were touched in less than two-and-a-half months for the fiscal year.

Some academicians and commentators say that the dramatic rise in H-1B visa petitions this year may indicate an improvement in the U.S. economy. The acceleration of demand in the past few months for H-1B visas may indicate that the economy is healing, according to Vivel Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford Law School.

Some commentators say that, at least some sectors of the economy, like information technology and related sectors have recovered faster than other sectors. That theory concludes that with the improvement in the IT sector, high-tech H-1B visa demand has returned. But at the same time, the theory also acknowledges that difficulties in the L-1B visa program arising in consulates overseas, including India, has placed new focus on H-1B visas as an alternative.

Generally, L-visas allow companies to transfer executives, managers or workers from a foreign office to the U.S. L-1B visas allow for intra-company transfers of employees with specialized knowledge.

Meanwhile, Wadhwa says that the United States is "committing national suicide" by holding on to the H-1B specialty visa caps. He argues that the United States should do away with the caps to be able to better compete on an international scale and help improve, not only the U.S. economy, but also business in the United States.

Source: Business-Standard, "Annual quota for H-1B visas exhausted," Indira Kannan, June 14, 2012

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