This year’s H-1B cap was reached in a mere 5 days, a rate rapid enough to aggravate members of the Silicon Valley tech industry. The speed at which the cap was met indicates the great need for skilled foreign workers, especially software engineers and the like in Silicon Valley. Tech companies well as companies in numerous other industries readily use H-1B visas and are frustrated that the number given out is capped at 85,000 (including the 20,000 reserved for applicants with a U.S. Master’s degree). USCIS has stated that it received a total of 172,500 H-1B petitions this year.
Industry representatives have for years pushed Congress to increase the quota. A bill already passed by the Senate, though waiting on a vote from the House of Representatives, would increase the number of visas to somewhere between 115,000 and 180,000 per year. However, immigration reform has been met with strong resistance by lawmakers, especially in the Republican-controlled House.
Critics of raising the quota believe an increase would undermine the U.S. workforce. They argue that work visas such as the H-1B allow U.S. employers to hire foreign workers and pay them less than what they would pay U.S. workers. Additionally, the tech industry has been further criticized for its support of “stand-alone” legislation, which would increase the H-1B quota without addressing other issues embedded in immigration reform.
Nonetheless, representatives from tech leaders such as Yahoo!, Cisco Systems, NetApp, and Hewlett-Packard recently met with 65 members of Congress to discuss the H-1B cap. Tech industry officials state that if Congress does not address the H-1B issue this year, they fear the United States will be confronted with the debilitating reality of losing out on highly skilled professional foreign workers that are vital to economic progress, innovation, and job creation. Still, many remain hopeful and are gearing up for this summer, which will likely see increased efforts to raise the quota.
For more information, please see San Jose Mercury News article “H-1B visa cap reached after just five days as valley executives lobby to expand the program” and USCIS’s press release “USCIS Reaches FY 2015 H-1B Cap.”