Lottery to pick 65,000 H-1B visas for 2009

April 9th, 2008 - 12:14 pm ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, April 9 (IANS) With US immigration authorities getting enough applications for H-1B visas coveted by Indian IT professionals within a week, a random lottery will pick the 65,000 lucky winners for 2009. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced Tuesday it had received by Monday enough petitions for the 65,000 H-1B visas available for fiscal year 2009 starting Oct 1, 2008 to meet the “congressionally mandated cap”.

The government agency, which extended the acceptance period to five business days to improve the fairness of the process, also announced it had received enough applications for the 20,000 H-1B visas allocated for the “advanced degree” exemption limit to meet the mandated cap.

The applications received will now be subject to a random lottery process for selection to determine which individuals can start working at their sponsor companies Oct 1, 2008.

Before running the random selection process, USCIS will complete initial data entry for all filings received during the filing period ended April 7. USCIS said it will first conduct the advanced degree random selection and that “advanced degree petitions not selected will be part of the random selection process for the 65,000 limit”.

Industry groups that support revising the H-1B programme say this year’s process mirrored last year’s, in which the USCIS received more than 123,000 applications in less than two days. The shortage of applications proves the programme needs to be updated to better meet US workforce needs, according to Compete America.

“US employers deserve better than a random lottery to determine if they can hire highly educated candidates they need,” said Robert Hoffman, vice president for government and public affairs at Oracle and co-chair of Compete America, in a written statement in response to the cap being reached this week.

According to the industry group, this year is the first in which the cap for both the general and advanced degree H-1B visas were reached during the filing period and the second year that the overall cap has been reached in the same time. The low cap sends talented workers, educated in the United States, to find employment elsewhere, Hoffman said.

“Despite the proven contributions of highly educated workers to America and the well-documented demand for the H-1B visas and employment based green cards that bring and keep them here, artificially low caps shut out some of the world’s brightest talent,” he said.

Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates among other has repeatedly urged the US Congress to let more foreign engineers including Indians work in the US as immigration restrictions were forcing US high-tech firms to outsource jobs overseas.

A recent study by the National Foundation for American Policy (NFAP) in fact shows American businesses are finding it hard to fill skilled positions even as H-1B visas that bring foreign professionals are creating jobs in the US technology companies.

Two influential US senators, Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Chuck Grassley, meanwhile, have questioned 25 top H1-B visa users, including nine Indian firms about their recruitment process for professional workers.

“The H-1B programme can’t be allowed to become a job-killer in America. We need to ensure that firms are not misusing these visas, causing American workers to be unfairly deprived of good high-skill jobs here at home,” they said in the letter sent April 1.

The nine Indian companies to get the questionnaires were Infosys, Wipro, Satyam, Tata Consultancy Services, Cognizant Tech Solutions, Patni Computer Systems, I-Flex Solutions, Larson & Toubro Infotech Ltd and Mphasis Corporation.

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