This week, Bill Snyder, a blogger for the anti-H-1B propaganda site Infoworld posted an article attacking Immigration of the Educated. What is especially interesting about Mr. Snyder’s position is the fact that it signals the resumption of the 2008 attack on the Optional Practical Training program (OPT). OPT being a temporary work authorized status granted to eligible F-1 students who may thus gain professional work experience post graduation, and perhaps a portion back of 20+ billion dollars in tuition they pay into our coffers each year.
Unjustified ire towards OPT is peaking only because the program may be utilized by eligible F-1 Science/Technology/Engineering/Math (STEM) graduates. Apparently, for Mr. Snyder, it is only then that the program transforms into what he terms “a sleazy end run around the law”. Mr. Snyder claims that these new STEM graduates, supported by their “tech company” employers, enter the U.S. workforce en masse to undercut IT wages. Said wages, which he admits in the first sentence, are already “climbing to more than $87,000 a year”.
The fact that Mr. Snyder’s argument against OPT flies in the face of the concept of American Exceptionalism and two basic economic principles, or that it is entirely bereft of any unbiased and relevant data is moot. The most significant takeaway from his article is that STEM OPT is nothing more than a scapegoat: this attack is actually and truly directed against the H-1B program itself. Mr. Snyder and other IT protectionists seek justification to undermine the OPT program not because of any alleged misuse, but because OPT allows a post graduate STEM worker precious time to find a good employer who may agree to pay government fees of up to $5,550.00 (plus attorney fees) to file an H-1B petition on their behalf. (There are no guarantees of approval, nor is the worker forced to even ultimately take up employment with the H-1B petitioner. As well, in the future, the H-1B worker, for any reason, may transfer to a new H-1B employer in as little as one week.)
Our immigration policy is increasingly hobbled by protectionists who, for short term gain (or perhaps unknowingly), damage our nation’s international lead in the STEM fields. Our insufficient H-1B cap that does the same: tens of thousands of highly qualified, valuable STEM professionals were rejected in last year’s random selection process (H-1B lottery), and sadly the scene is set be repeated again this year in April.
Our repeated rejection of STEM professionals is untenable and is certain to diminish our ability to attract the worlds best and brightest, unless we make drastic changes. Already, other nations are eagerly recruiting STEM workers (sometimes from within our own borders). The bottom line: the yearly H-1B cap must be increased to an amount commensurate to demand, or at the very least, to a level that isn’t exhausted in one week.
The H-1B program is used by U.S. corporation to employ foreign professional workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields. The program allows for about 85,000 new H-1B workers each Fiscal Year, a paltry number in the face of the U.S.’s need for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (“STEM”) workers. In an interview with Reuters last year, I predicted that 2013’s H-1B quota would be exhausted instantly – something that had not occurred since 2008. I was subsequently proven correct as USCIS received approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, each vying for one of the 85,000 “slots” available. On April 7, 2013, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process (the “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 for the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption limit.
This year, the Fiscal Year 2015 Cap season will begin on April 1, 2014 and I anticipate an even larger number of H-1B applications. This prediction is based not only on the strengthening national economy but also because U.S. Immigration authorities have reduced or eliminated other possible options for U.S. companies in acquiring STEM professional workers. Despite the tremendously positive impact that H-1B visa holders make in this country (including the substantial revenue the hefty H-1B application fees generate for USCIS and U.S. worker training programs nationwide), they are treated poorly by U.S. Immigration authorities. H-1B employers and beneficiaries suffer from absurdly high query rates and illogical consular delays. Many also subject to unusually long delays in filing for Permanent Residence, for example, an Indian born Software Engineer currently faces a wait time of eleven (11) years to obtain an employment based third preference (EB-3) green card.
As I have previously stated, our national immigration policy should emphasize our immediate need: to retain and increase our advanced degree professionals so that the we can continue to compete internationally and maintain our lead in new technologies. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to take concrete steps towards increasing the H-1B cap amount to 250,000.
AILA indicates that USCIS has initiated the data entry process for H-1B petitions selected in the lottery. Premium processing cases are being handled first and data entry for those cases should be completed by April 15. Our firm has been receiving Premium processing notices since last week.
Data entry for non-premium processing cases will begin after entries for premium processing cases are completed, likely not until May (like in 2008). Rejection notices for petitions not selected in the lottery will be issued subsequently.
USCIS Cap: Approx. 124,000 H-1B Petitions filed between April 1 and April 5 for approx. 83K Visas Available (incl. Adv. Degree Cap/Reg Cap Minus Singapore/Chile)
WASHINGTON—For the first time since 2008, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reached the statutory H-1B cap of 65,000 for fiscal year (FY) 2014 within the first week of the filing period. USCIS has also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption.
USCIS received approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period, including petitions filed for the advanced degree exemption. On April 7, 2013, USCIS used a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as a “lottery”) to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the caps of 65,000 for the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree exemption limit. For cap-subject petitions not randomly selected, USCIS will reject and return the petition with filing fees, unless it is found to be a duplicate filing.
The agency conducted the selection process for advanced degree exemption petitions first. All advanced degree petitions not selected were part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit.
As announced on March 15, 2013, USCIS has temporarily adjusted its premium processing practice. To facilitate the prioritized data entry of cap-subject petitions requesting premium processing, USCIS will begin premium processing for H-1B cap cases on April 15, 2013. For more information on premium processing for FY 2014 cap-subject petitions, please see the related USCIS Alert.
USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap. Petitions filed on behalf of current H-1B workers who have been counted previously against the cap will not be counted towards the congressionally-mandated FY 2014 H-1B cap. Accordingly, USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions filed to:
- extend the amount of time a current H-1B worker may remain in the U.S.;
- change the terms of employment for current H-1B workers;
- allow current H-1B workers to change employers; and
- allow current H-1B workers to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.
U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields including, but not limited to: scientists, engineers, or computer programmers.
ENTIRE YEAR’S H-1B CAP MET ON APRIL 5, 2013, AS USCIS HAD PREDICTED. THIS IS CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT INCREASED H-1B NUMBERS URGENTLY NECESSARY
USCIS’ announcement (late last month) that it anticipated the entire year’s cap would be met in within a week of the cap opening on April 1, 2013 was a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have learned that the cap is indeed exhausted. This is undisputed evidence that H-1B visa numbers must be increased in order for this country to remain competitive globally.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced today that it has received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to reach the statutory cap for fiscal year (FY) 2014. USCIS has also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption. After today, USCIS will not accept H-1B petitions subject to the FY 2014 cap or the advanced degree exemption.
USCIS will use a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as the “lottery”) for all FY 2014 cap-subject petitions received through April 5, 2013. The agency will conduct the selection process for advanced degree exemption petitions first. All advanced degree petitions not selected will be part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit. Due to the high number of petitions received, USCIS is not yet able to announce the exact day of the random selection process. Also, USCIS is currently not providing the total number of petitions received, as we continue to accept filings today. USCIS will continue to accept and process petitions that are otherwise exempt from the cap.
USCIS will provide more detailed information about the H-1B cap next week.
By Ashwin Sharma
Several of the Cap Subject H-1B professional worker cases we submitted to USCIS via overnight Fedex from Saturday onward show no tracking information updates. Other sources are also indicating that Fedex is experiencing difficulty handling the sheer volume of H-1B applications filed.