The annual visa cap for H-1B visas for 2013 was filed in five days.
Immigration Reform in 2013 will attempt to increase the current limit on these highly-skilled immigrant visas. The interest in increasing the limit comes primarily from a shortage of qualified American workers in STEM fields. Big tech companies like Microsoft have advocated for an increase in H-1B visas.
H-1B Visa Cap
The limit of H-1B visas issued in a fiscal year is 65,000. However, the current immigration system issues a total of 85,000 visas for highly-skilled immigrants every year:
- 65,000 of the visas are designated to highly-skilled private sector immigrant workers
- 20,000 of the visas are designated to immigrant graduates with advanced graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields who have graduated from U.S. universities.
There is no cap for workers who are petitioned for by institutions of higher education. They can receive an H-1B visa even if the limit has been reached.
What is the H-1B visa for?
The H-1B is a nonimmigrant visa companies seek when looking to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, which include STEM fields; services of exceptional merit; or fashion models of distinguished ability.
The term nonimmigrant is used when referring to a visa that only allows the visa holder to remain in the U.S. for a short period of time.
With an H-1B visa, the visa holder can stay in the U.S. for up to three years. This period of time can be extended for three more years but never beyond that. The employer is not required to pay for the visa holders trip back home if he or she decided to quits the job hired to do.
What is the H-1B Application Process?
The application process for the H-1B begins when the employer seeking the foreign worker submits a Labor Condition Application for the Department of Labor. This is a required step, for the employer has to attest to being able to pay employees the same wages paid to others with the same qualifications in the same geographic area. The employer must also attest that the labor conditions will be suitable for all employees.
The DOL will issue a certification if the application is approved. After LCA certification, the employer will file Form I-129. In the cases of specialty occupation and fashion model employees, the certification must be submitted with the form. After the form is accepted, the employee will be able to apply for the H-1B visa from outside the U.S. at an embassy or consulate.