H-1B applications surge to 172,500, twice the cap

After some slow years during and following the 2008 recession, demand grows among outsourcers and others seeking foreign workers

The U.S. received twice as many H-1B visa petitions as it can give out under its 85,000 visa cap, and is thus distributing the visas via lottery.

In total, the U.S. received about 172,500 applications for H-1B visas -- that carry a 65,000 base cap and another cap of 20,000 for those who earned a master's degree or higher in the U.S., the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service said today.

The visas picked in the lottery can be used in the 2015 federal fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

The U.S. began accepting H-1B visas for the upcoming fiscal year on April 1, and consequently received one of the largest number of petitions in recent years.

In 2008, the there were 163,000 petitions for H-1B visas and then the recession dampened demand. Last year, there were 124,000 H-1B petitions.

The large volume of H-1B petitions will offer more fodder for the never-ending debate about the H-1B visa, heavily used by IT services firms based in India or that run large offshore operations in the U.S.

Computer occupations linked to IT services have been leading tech hiring. Nonetheless, the random nature of the lottery will likely prompt frustration and complaint among tech firms that aren't using the visa to offshore work.

Computerworld recently published a listof the largest H-1B users for 2013.

Patrick Thibodeau covers cloud computing 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.

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