Washington: The US has barred employers from filing more than one H-1B visa application for a worker in a fiscal year, amid a growing clamour to raise the cap to allow more skilled professionals from India and other countries to work here.
“To ensure a fair and orderly distribution of available H-1B visas, USCIS will deny or revoke multiple petitions filed by an employer for the same H-1B worker and will not refund the filing fees submitted with multiple or duplicative petitions,” the US Citizenship and Immigration Services said in an announcement.
The Congress has set a limit of 65,000 for H-1B workers for the fiscal 2009.
The changes will ensure that companies filing H-1B petitions subject to congressionally mandated numerical limits have an equal chance to employ an H-1B worker, it said.
This rule does not preclude related employers (such as a parent company and its subsidiary) from filing petitions on behalf of the same worker for different positions, based on a legitimate business need.
There has been growing presure from US companies to raise the H-1B visa quota with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates describing the cap as “arbitrary and counterproductive”.
“Microsoft has found that for every H-1B hire we make, we add on average four additional employees to support them in various capacities,” Gates, who once said that if he had his way he would scrap the H-1B visa system entirely, told a House of Representatives Panel on Science and Technology.
The USCIS said the changes to the H-1B filing process under the new rule are an important part of the initiative announced by President George W Bush in August on undertaking a series of immigration and border security reforms.
According to the agency, from April 1 employers can file petitions requesting H-1B workers for fiscal year 2009 employment starting on 1 October, 2008.
The first 20,000 H-1B applicants who have a US Master’s degree or higher are exempted from the current cap. Once USCIS receives 20,000 petitions from such foreigners, all other cases requesting the educational exemption are counted toward the 65,000 cap.
Once the 65,000 cap is reached for a fiscal year, USCIS will reject further petitions.
The rule also stipulates that if USCIS determines the number of H-1B petitions received meets the cap within the first five business days of accepting applications for the coming fiscal year, USCIS will apply a random selection process among all H-1B petitions received during this time period.
“If the 20,000 advanced degree limit is reached during the first five business days, USCIS will randomly select from those petitions ahead of conducting the random selection for the 65,000 limit.
Petitions subject to the 20,000 limit that are not selected in that random selection will be considered with the other H-1B petitions for the 65,000 limit, the agency said.
The rule stated that USCIS will deny petitions that incorrectly claim an exemption from any H-1B numerical limits and those filing fees will not be returned.