For the third year in a row, the entire year’s allocation of H-1B visas for skilled workers were snapped up by employers within a week of being made available. Hopefuls who missed the window will now have to test their odds in a lottery, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Congress set the cap for H-1B visas at 65,000, with an additional 20,000 visas set aside for foreign graduates of U.S. universities. Petitions have surpassed both limits for the 2016 fiscal year.
American companies fight for the visas in hopes of attracting top-tier foreign talent. Businesses will shell out thousands of dollars a year for the visas, which are initially approved to keep workers in the country for three years and can be extended for another three when they expire. Since 2010, there has been a precipitous drop in the number of days it takes petitions to outpace the congressionally mandated 65,000 cap. For perspective, it took 265 days to pass the cap for the 2010 and 301 days in 2011.
The visas are particularly common among technology, science and consulting companies. Disgraced Indian consultancy Infosys was the largest sponsor of H-1B visas in 2014, according to the public database MyVisaJobs. Infosys was forced to pay $34million in a settlement for “systemic visa fraud and abuse” in 2013. As of last year, Infosys had a staggering 23,816 employees on some type of H-1B visa (other variations include H-1B1 visa and the E-3 visa), based on paperwork it filed with the government. IBM, Microsoft and Accenture also have large numbers of employees on these visas.