Washington – On April 7, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it had received enough H-1B temporary work visa petitions to hit the annual statutory cap for FY 2015, less than a week after it had begun accepting petitions on April 1. The general cap of 65,000 and the advanced degree holder cap of 20,000 were both hit. As a result, the petitions received through today will go into a random lottery process. Once again, U.S. technology companies will be severely restricted in hiring the skilled workers they need to maintain their competitiveness, demonstrating just how broken the status quo in skilled immigration really is.
This is the second year in a row that the H-1B cap has been reached within five business days of H-1B Opening Day (the FY 2014 cap was hit on April 5, 2013). The same situation had occurred in 2007 and 2008. Incredibly, it has been a regular occurrence for companies to be left with no available H-1B visas for 51 weeks out of the year.
Despite the fact that the result was yet another Groundhog Day-like reprisal of what has become a cruel April Fools Day joke, we did see significant progress in the struggle for immigration reform in the past year. Last June, a comprehensive immigration reform bill, including provisions to increase access to skilled immigrants, was passed by the U.S. Senate. While the House Republican leadership will not take up the Senate bill (or any comprehensive bill), the debate in the House has evolved to the point where the discussion is more centered on how and when (rather than whether) to address immigration reform. Amid political calculations for the midterm elections in November, the timing of reform is seen as problematic.
However, skilled immigration reform is not just a political football, but a real issue with real-world economic repercussions. Every H-1B season that goes by without addressing the chronic shortage of visas signifies another year of the U.S. economy having to forego the job-creating benefits of having foreign-born talent put their skills to use here. The Compete America coalition, of which CCIA is a member, has estimated that the H-1B cap results in 100,000 more applications not being filed or approved. With each H-1B worker estimated to create four other jobs, the foregone job creation due to the shortage of visas reaches 500,000 per year. The coalition has placed a Jobs Calculator on its website illustrating the continuing increase of jobs NOT created.
We hope that Congress will recognize the adverse consequences of allowing the broken status quo to continue, and take action this year to enact immigration reform that includes increasing access to skilled immigration, thus finally putting an end to the annual reprisal of the H-1B farce.