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The federal government will start accepting H-1Bs visa petitions for the next fiscal year on April 1, but U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services warned demand for the visa is up and the annual cap could be reached by April 5 or sooner. If the number of petitions exceeds the cap, the USCIS could use a lottery system for the first time since April 2008, the agency said.
In 2008, the H-1B visa cap had been reached in one day, prompting the need for the lottery that year. Demand had slowed for H-1B visas in the wake of the recession. It took approximately two-and-a-half months to reach the cap last year and seven-and-a-half months in 2011.
Federal law caps H-1B visas at 65,000. However, exempt from the cap are the first 20,000 H-1B petitions for workers with a U.S. master’s degree or higher.
H-1B visas are used by companies — including staffing firms — to bring in specialized professionals such as scientists, engineers, computer programmers, medical personnel and others.
Some attorneys are suggesting that companies act quickly if they need H-1B visa workers.