Washington: The US will start accepting the applications for H-1B visas, most sought after by Indians, from 1 April for the fiscal 2011.
In a statement, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said it will accept petitions for 65,000 H-1B visas as mandated by the Congress.
“Cases will be considered accepted on the date that it takes possession of a properly filed petition with the correct fee; not the date that the petition is postmarked,” the statement said.
The first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of individuals who have earned a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from this 65,000 cap.
If needed, USCIS will randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit from the petitions received on the final receipt date, the statement said.
Petitions for new H-1B employment are exempt from the annual cap if the beneficiaries will work at institutions of higher education or related or affiliated nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations or governmental research organizations.
US businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, such as scientists, engineers, or computer programmers.
Last year, mainly attributable to the economic recession, the cap on H-1B visa was reached on 22 December.
This was unlike previous years when the cap was reached within the first few days of USCIS starting to accept H-1B petitions. As a result, USCIS had to resort to computerised draw of lots to determine successful applicants.
Because of stringent monitoring provisions and general economic recession, there has been a sharp drop in the number of Indian receiving H-1B visas in the last few years, official figures reveal.
For instance, the Infosys which received as many as 4559 H-1B visas in the fiscal 2008 and was on top of the list of companies receiving this coveted work visa for professionals; received just 440 H-1B visas in the fiscal 2009 (1 October, 2008 to 30 September 2009), according to the latest figures released by the US Citizens and Immigration Services.
Similarly, Wipro, which in 2008 got 2,678 H-1B visas, received just 1,964 H-1B visas in 2009; but still topped the list in the fiscal 2009.
In 2008, four out of the top five companies bagging the maximum number of H-1B visas were grabbed by Indian companies. These were Infosys (4,559), Wipro (2678), Satyam (1917) and Tata Consultancy Services (1539).
Microsoft with 1037 H1-1B visas was the only US company to figure in top five.
However, the situation has changed dramatically in the year 2009. While three of the top five positions are still being grabbed by Indian companies, none of them except for Wipro crossed the 1,000 mark. Wipro (1,964) is followed by (1318) and Intel (723) then by IBM India (695) and Patni Americans (609).
Satyam is ranked far below with juts 219 H-1B visas in 2009 as against 1,917 in 2008. Another major Indian IT company Cognizant had just 233 H-1B visas as against 467 in 2008.