US govt fills annual cap of 85,000 H-1B visas in just five days
A very popular destination for foreign graduate workers. Source: Wellington Rodriques on Unsplash

The US federal government has reached its annual cap for the popular H-1B visa program, which allows US employers to hire foreigners in areas which require specialised knowledge to fill available jobs.

Applications opened last Monday. By Friday, the US Citizenship and Immigration Service, or USCIS, said it has reached its annual cap in just five days.

“USCIS has reached the congressionally-mandated 65,000 H-1B visa cap for fiscal year 2019. USCIS has also received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa US advanced degree exemption, known as the master’s cap,” it announced on its website.

Each year, 65,000 H-1B visas are allotted for workers with bachelor’s degrees while another 20,000 are available for those with master’s degrees or higher. The scarce but highly-sought visas will be distributed by lottery, a feature that US President has described as “wrong.”

“Right now, H-1B visas are awarded in a totally random lottery, and that’s wrong,” Trump said, while signing an executive order last April, which would direct the Departments of Labor, Justice, Homeland Security and State to revamp the program so visas are awarded to the most skilled, best-paid immigrant workers, as well as cracking down on fraud and abuse.

Changes made since this “Buy American, Hire American” executive order included 45 percent more requests for evidence by USCIS last year, number of surprise visits by fraud teams at common H-1B visa holder workplaces and asking for more details – type of work, wages paid, why a foreigner is needed to do it – in applications.

There are also plans to change the selection process of the visas as well as the controversial proposal to end the H-4EAD visa program, which allows spouses of H-1B visa holders to work legally in the US.

For further updates, those interested can subscribe to email updates located on USCIS’ H-1B Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Cap Season page.

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