H-1B visa applications cap out in just five days

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Enlarge / The Chet Holifield Federal Building in Laguna Niguel, California. Tens of thousands of visa applications were delivered to the building last week, which is home to one of several USCIS service centers.

Trucks full of thick Fedex applications lined up before dawn to get their applications in.

By Friday, the door was shut. US Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) said on Friday they have already maxed out, hitting the limit of 65,000 H-1B visas set by Congress and an additional 20,000 visas that are reserved for applicants who have masters degrees. It’s the fifth year in a row that the cap has been met within five days.

Some H-1B employers aren’t subject to the visa cap, including universities and some non-profits.

Earlier last week in a statement titled “Putting American Workers First,” USCIS offered some details about how it will ramp up enforcement of the H-1B program’s rules. The agency has promised it will conduct targeted site visits to employers who use the H-1B program to ensure rules are being followed. It will also continue random and unannounced site visits around the nation.

Employers that are “H-1B dependent,” meaning they have a high number of H-1B employees compared to US workers, will be a particular focus. The same goes for employers that hire H-1B workers and then have them working “off-site” or at another company.

The H-1B program has come under increasing criticism in recent years, as increasing numbers of visas have gone to outsourcing firms. Both Democrats and Republicans have introduced bills this year to revamp the program.

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