H-1B visas: Application cap for FY18 hit in less than a week

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The maximum number of applications allowed under the popular H-1B visa programme for the financial year 2017-18 has been received by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 

USCIS, the federal US agency responsible for the processing of H-1B applications for foreign IT professionals, has said that it has reached the congressionally mandated 65,000 visa cap for the 2018 financial year. 

"US Citizenship and Immigration Services has reached the congressionally mandated 65,000 visa H-1B cap for fiscal year 2018," an official announcement said. The agency has also received a sufficient number of H-1B petitions to meet the 20,000 visa US advanced degree exemption, also known as the master's cap, the statement added.

The application window had begun from April 1. The cap was hit within just four days of the opening of the window. 

However, unlike previous years, it did not say how it was going to determine the successful applications, which in the past had been through a computerised draw of lots.

Indian nationals account for nearly two out of three H-1B visa holders in the US. But the majority of them are from companies such as IBM and Facebook. Indian firms such as TCS, Infosys, Wipro and HCL Technologies have been reducing dependency on H-1B visas, accounting for less than 20 per cent of the nearly 80,000 visas issued annually.

Earlier, before the start of the current H-1B application season, the USCIS had issued a clarification to one of its processing centres, saying the an entry-level computer programmer's position would not generally qualify as a position in a speciality occupation. One of the H-1B visa requirements is that the job that the applicant is applying for in the US is a speciality occupation. 

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A guidance issued by the USCIS to one of its centres clarifying the existing policy on such matters had shed light on how such visa applications would be handled. The new memorandum rescinded a previous memorandum, titled “Guidance memo on H-1B computer related positions”, issued to the USCIS' Nebraska Service Center employees on December 22, 2000. The agency maintains that it was only a clarification.

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