GO
Loading...

Crisis Over? Demand for Foreign Workers to Jump

150038633SP009_Employers_Po
Getty Images

A popular U.S. visa program for skilled workers is likely to hit its quota within days after its application period opens, triggering a lottery and signaling that companies feel confident enough about the economy to hire more foreign workers.

The H-1B program will not have reached its base cap of 65,000 so quickly since early 2008, before the economic crisis hit. That was the last time a lottery was used, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which processes the applications.

The application period opened on Monday. The USCIS plans to announce by the middle of next week if it will hold a lottery for the visas, a spokesman told Reuters on Monday. It had previously said it anticipated the quota for the year starting Oct. 1 could be met by Friday.

Last year the cap was not reached until June.

Preliminary paperwork that prospective visa seekers must file with the Department of Labor before applying to USCIS indicates that there is demand for well over 65,000 visas, said Jacksonville, Florida-based lawyer Ashwin Sharma, who handles H-1B visa applications for technology consulting firms. He expects a record volume of applications this year.

U.S. companies, particularly in technology, say they need the visas to fill vacant positions. But some worker-advocacy groups counter that the companies are using the visa program to hire cheaper foreign labor.

While the official quota is 65,000, the actual number of people who enter the United States on H-1Bs is far greater because workers at universities and some other workplaces don't count toward the limit. Masters and PhD graduates from U.S. universities have their own quota of 20,000 visas.

Last year, the government issued 129,000 H-1B visas - almost double level of the official quota.

The U.S. Congress is currently working on immigration reform legislation. Among proposals being considered is a revamp of the H-1B program that could raise the quota based on demand and eliminate the lottery.

Contact U.S. News

  • CNBC NEWSLETTERS

    Get the best of CNBC in your inbox

    Please choose a subscription

    Please enter a valid email address
    To learn more about how we use your information,
    please read our Privacy Policy.

Don't Miss

  • Former Kleiner partner Ellen Pao arrives at San Francisco Superior Court, March 24, 2015.

    Ellen Pao’s lawsuit against her former employer, Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins, is frivolous—and a setback for women, says Carol Roth.

  • A pedestrian walks by a Lululemon retail store on September 12, 2014 in San Francisco, California

    It looks like Lululemon has learned a lesson from its past controversies, and is working to develop merchandise to fit a fuller-figured customer.

  • Beer Label Madness 2015 - South - Yule Shoot Your Eye Out

    As voting gets underway in Round Two of CNBC's most loved beer label contest, here's a look at those that prevailed in Round One.

U.S. Video