March 10, 2005 1:04 PM PST
H-1Bs now open to the less-educated?
(continued from previous page)
higher education are not subject to the annual congressionally mandated H-1B visa cap of 65,000. After those 20,000 slots are filled, USCIS is required to count those cases against the cap for the remainder of the fiscal year," the agency said in a statement. "For FY 2005, the new provision will allow USCIS to accept new petitions on behalf of up to 20,000 beneficiaries meeting these criteria."
One interpretation of this statement, though, might be to treat the first 20,000 visas already granted to people with advanced degrees in 2005 as those making up the exemption. In that case, another 20,000 visas for this year would be available under the cap to people with a broader range of educational backgrounds.
An official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security--the parent agency to USCIS--said this line of reasoning was a possibility for the final regulations. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
H-1B visas have long been a flashpoint of controversy in the tech industry. Thirty-nine percent of visa petitions approved in 2003 were for workers in computer-related occupations, with nearly 37 percent of all approvals that year for workers born in India.
Critics have blasted the H-1B program as undermining U.S. wages, being ripe for abuse and fueling the shift of skilled work overseas. Industry leaders have said the visas serve instead as a brake on offshoring. They have also rejected the claim that H-1Bs amount to a cheap-labor program, defending the visas as a means to fill shortages and give U.S. companies access to international talent as they compete globally.
The annual cap, which primarily applies to applications for initial employment, has fluctuated over the years. It fell from 195,000 in 2003 to 65,000 in 2004, when employers hit the visa limit less than halfway through the fiscal year.
Despite recent changes in the law, battle lines are being drawn between those who want to increase or eliminate the cap, and those who oppose more H-1B visas.
Compete America also criticized USCIS for not yet accepting applications for additional visas. The agency has advised employers to wait until it publishes a rule concerning the new law and related issues.
Although USCIS said provisions of the new H-1B law went into effect Tuesday, spokesman Bentley said the agency isn't guilty of a delay. The agency did not have to start accepting applications Tuesday, he said.
10 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment