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San Francisco Bay Area Immigration Blog

Tech Companies Send H-1B Visa Petitions With Hopes of Making the Highly Competitive “H-1B Lottery”

Today marks the first day USCIS begins accepting new H-1B filings in 2015 (for Fiscal Year 2016).

It is expected that new cases will be accepted only from April 1, 2015 until April 7, 2015, at which point the Immigration Service will not accept any more new cap-subject cases and will hold a random selection process often referred to as the “H-1B lottery.” Congress allocates only about 65,000 cap-subject H-1B visas per year for employees with bachelor’s degrees and an additional 20,000 per year to employees who hold at least a US master’s degree from a qualifying public or non-profit university. Last year approximately 172,000 H-1B petitions were received during the first five business days in April, meaning more than half of the cases that were filed were returned because they did not make it into the “lottery.” This year it is expected that even more H-1B visas will be received.

A recent report by the Brookings Institute found that the number of college freshmen in the US who choose IT and computer-related majors has fallen 17 % from 2002 to 2012. This significant decline in US students selecting IT-related majors highlights a labor shortage that employers in California and other parts of the country face every day in the tech industry. The US is simply failing to produce the quantity of highly trained IT workers that are needed to support the needs of IT companies. The Brookings report mentions that high demand for these jobs has resulted in an increase in “hack schools” and coding “bootcamps,” which are short-term intensive IT programs that are aimed at training mid-career professionals with skills to get IT jobs. While these programs help address some of the IT shortage, these short-term programs do not substitute the rigorous training obtained through four-year degrees in computer science or related fields. Since US universities are not producing enough skilled graduates with strong IT backgrounds, many US companies are unable to find the number of high quality IT workers they need from the US market. Since Congress allocates too few H-1B visa numbers, many IT companies are unable to retain the highly skilled IT workers they need. An increase in available H-1B numbers is drastically overdue.