The beginning of April brings with it two Opening Days: baseball season and H-1B season. Opening Day for baseball is a time when fans of every team can look forward to a season throughout which their team can do battle with the players they have assembled in order to have the best chance at success. By contrast, the H-1B Opening Day is an annual reminder of the visa cap that limits companies’ ability to hire the skilled workers that best fit their needs, with the possibility of the season ending almost before it begins.
On April 1, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began accepting petitions for H-1B temporary work visas for FY 2014. For the past four years, since the economic downturn in 2008, the H-1B cap (65,000 visas + 20,000 for advanced degree holders) has been hit in December 2009, January 2011, November 2011 and June 2012. While these were improvements over previous years in which the cap was hit within days, it should be pointed out that even the latest of these dates was less than four months into the fiscal year, leaving more than nine months in which visas were unavailable to employers.
According to a press release last month, “USCIS anticipates that it may receive more petitions than the H-1B cap between April 1, 2013 and April 5, 2013”, and may “use a lottery system to randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit.”
This would be the same situation that occurred in 2007 and 2008. It is ludicrous to force U.S. tech companies to go through a lottery in order to hire the skilled foreign workers they need, many of whom have been studying at U.S. universities. If uncertainty in the business environment is the biggest impediment to getting companies investing and hiring, it makes absolutely no sense to have a lottery, the very epitome of uncertainty, at the end of the hiring process. With the introduction of bills in Congress like the Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act, there appears to be more support than ever among lawmakers for increasing high-skilled visas, and we are hopeful that such reforms will be included in any comprehensive immigration reform legislation. This is one reform that simply can’t wait ‘til next year.