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U.S. gets 124,000 H-1B petitions, 45% above cap

U.S. held lottery to distribute visas on Sunday

April 8, 2013 05:10 PM ET

Computerworld - The federal government on Monday reported that it had received 124,000 H-1B visa petitions, 39,000 more than it can fulfill under two hiring caps.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service on Sunday held a computer-generated lottery to distribute the visas, which can be used during the federal government's 2014 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. With the lottery, a U.S.-based company that may be seeking only one or two H-1B visas is on the same footing as a large overseas-based offshore outsourcing firm that may have petitioned for thousands of temporary visas.

The U.S. has two caps: a limit of 20,000 visas reserved for people from other countries who hold advanced degrees from U.S. universities, and a cap of 65,000 on H-1B visas with no restrictions.

Advanced-degree holders who are applying for the 20,000 H-1Bs reserved for them have an edge because that lottery is held first. Those not selected become part of the pool competing for the remaining 65,000 visas.

The H-1B visa petitions arrived in a rush. The government began accepting petitions April 1, and announced Friday that it had received enough to meet the cap.

The majority of H-1B visas go to large IT services firms, according to a Computerworld analysis of the data.

Separately, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday asked the Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to provide a breakdown on the number of women who received H-1B visas.

Last month, at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee, of which Grassley is a member, Karen Panetta, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Tufts University, said that the vast majority of H-1B visas are held by men. She was testifying for the IEEE-USA, where she served as director of the IEEE's Women in Engineering Committee.

The IEEE-USA has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the USCIS, seeking data on the number of women who received H-1B visas, but the organization has not yet received data on an individual petition basis.

"Having the data is critical to understanding the problem and finding an answer," Grassley wrote in a letter to Janet Napolitano, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees USCIS. He asking for the data on women going back to 1992.

The last time the U.S. received more than 85,000 H-1B visa petitions within the first week was in 2008, when 163,000 petitions were filed.

covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at Twitter @DCgov, or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed Thibodeau RSS. His email address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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