Immigration Law Blog

Monday, April 23, 2018

H-1B Cap for FY 2019 Reached in Five Days

By Kalpana Peddibhotla and Roujin Mozaffarimehr

H-1B season ended almost as quickly as it began. On April 2, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting petitions for FY 2019 for the coveted visa for highly-skilled foreign workers.

Mid-morning April 6, the agency announced that it had reached the Congressionally-mandated 65,000 visa cap for regular H-1B petitions, as well as the 20,000 “Master’s exemption” cap for those with advanced U.S. degrees. It will now assign the visas via a randomized lottery system.

USCIS announced April 11 that it had received 190,098 H-1B petitions for FY 2019, Although the H-1B cap exceeded the Congressionally-mandated limits for FY 2019, petitions have declined in recent times: for FY 2018, the agency received 199,000 petitions; for FY 2017, nearly 236,000 petitions were filed.

Highly Skilled Work is in Still in Demand

According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, one million tech jobs are expected to be unfilled in 2019. In the tech industry, employment of software developers is projected to grow 24 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The speed at which the caps were met empirically proves that the U.S. needs highly-skilled labor from abroad. Employers are concerned that there is insufficient STEM talent in the pipeline to fill specialized technical jobs with American workers. Many argue that H-1B workers threaten to steal jobs from American workers, however H-1B recipients represent about 1 percent of the overall U.S. workforce.

While companies that were headquartered in India have attained most H-1B visas in the past, recent DOL data suggests that trend has shifted. U.S. companies are increasing their pool of H-1B workers. For example, U.S. companies such as Google and Facebook have started to file an increasing number of H-1B petitions.

It is undeniable that highly skilled work not only is in demand, but it has a proven track record of contributing to the thriving U.S. economy. According to AILA’s Deconstructing the Invisible Wall, “[At least] 43 percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded or co-founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant, and that figure rises to 75 percent among the top 35 Fortune 500 companies. In Silicon Valley, more than half of new tech start-up companies were founded by foreign-born individuals.”

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