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Land rush for H-1B visas expected Monday

The federally mandated cap could be reached in a day or two

March 30, 2007 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government will begin accepting H-1B applications Monday, and immigration attorneys believe that there will be a big rush of applications filed early next week -- so many, in fact, that the federally mandated visa cap could be reached in a day or two.

With that in mind, Irina Plumlee, a partner at the Dallas office of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, intends to send off a stack of H-1B visa applications to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services (UCIS) for Monday arrival. Other immigration attorneys are expected to do much the same thing.

"Our expectation is that the cap might well be filled as of April 2, and in fact may be exceeded," said Plumlee. She attributes expectations that the cap will be quickly exceeded to a continuing demand for workers as well as concerns by companies that if they don't move quickly to get a visa, they could miss out.

The U.S. is making 65,000 H-1B visas available under one cap; an additional 20,000 visas are set aside to advanced-degree graduates of U.S. universities. The latter visa cap is not expected to be reached as quickly. Beginning each April, the U.S. starts accepting applications for the visas, which are not actually made available until the federal fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. Last year, the cap was exhausted by May 26, which was the earliest the limit had been reached ever.

Peter Roberts, an immigration attorney at McCarter & English LLP in Stamford, Conn., also plans to send his H-1B applications by courier to ensure that they arrive on Monday. He, too, is well aware of the expectation among immigration attorneys that there's going to be a flood of visa applications early next week.

"I think there is a self-fulfilling prophesy at work," said Roberts, "because of the fear that [the H-1B visas] are going to be used up. Everybody is loading up on the front end."

Vic Goel, an immigration attorney in Reston, Va., who has long tracked this issue, said in an e-mail that he expects visa applications to hit the cap by either Monday or Tuesday.

Chris Bentley, a spokesman for the immigration service, said the agency is not predicting when the cap will be reached. But if applications hit the limit, some of applicants may have to settle for a random selection process.

For instance, if UCIS receives 55,000 H-1B applications on Monday and another 30,000 on Tuesday, it will use a computer program to randomly pick the number it needs from the applications that arrive Tuesday to fill the 65,000-visa quota. The rest would be rejected. The UCIS accepts more than it can hand out in the expectation that some will be rejected.

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