U.S. gets flood of H-1B petitions on first day

Service provider must bring on more than 100 temporary workers to help with processing the H-1B visa petitions

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services received roughly 50,000 "packages" with H-1B petitions on Monday, the first day of filing for the next fiscal year.

Based on historical patterns, each package represents about 1.2 H-1B petitions. A package can contain anywhere from one petition to several hundred.

The data on H-1B petitions comes from FCi Federal, a Leesburg, Va.-based government services and technology provider that is supplying personnel to assist the USCIS in processing the H-1B petitions.

FCi's estimate confirms predictions that H-1B demand will be at its highest level since 2008, the last time the petitions exceeded H-1B visa caps.

If the cap is exceeded this year, which now appears likely, the federal government will distribute H-1B visas via a lottery.

The USCIS will stop accepting H-1B petitions once it reaches its two visa caps -- a general 65,000-visa cap and a 20,000 limit on visas for holders of advanced degrees from U.S. universities. But for the purpose of calculating the total visa count against the caps, the government treats the first five days of April as essentially one day.

FCi's estimate means that the USCIS received somewhere in the range of 60,000 petitions on day one of the filing. The number is not official -- it's clearly an estimate. The USCIS does not disclose how many petitions it has received until after the first five days have passed.

In 2008, the U.S. received some 163,000 petitions in the first five days.

The number of packages received fell sharply on Tuesday, said an FCi official, but did not estimate the total.

The large number of petitions received on day one was expected.

The USCIS, in a March 15 press release, said that based on feedback received from "stakeholders," which would include immigration attorneys who prepare petitions, it was possible that the H-1B cap would be met in the first five business days of the filing season.

FCi has 800 employees working at USCIS processing centers, but it has had to hire more than 100 temporary workers to help handle the workload.

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

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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