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Dramatic Drop in H-1B Visa Applications – AILA Press Release: H-1Bs Reflect the Economic Conditions

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WASHINGTON, DC – Today USCIS advised that, during the initial filing window for H-1Bs, it has not received even half the number of petitions to reach the 65,000 cap. “This indicates that H-1B filings really do reflect the realities of the marketplace,” said Charles H. Kuck, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).

H-1B petitions are filed by U.S. employers seeking to hire a specific foreign national in a specialty occupation involving the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge (such as the sciences, medicine and health care, education, biotechnology). The numerical limitation on H-1B petitions for fiscal year 2010 is 65,000. Additionally, the first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of aliens who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the fiscal year cap.

USCIS has also indicated that, while it has received nowhere near the number of filings that would fill the overall H-1B cap, it has received close to the number needed to fill the 20,000 exemption for those who have earned a U.S. master’s degree or higher. This will be the first time that the U.S. master’s degree exemption has filled up before the H-1B cap has. “It is a reflection of how filings track market realities,” said Kuck. “In boom times, when there are shortages of U.S. workers in eligible fields, you see more foreign workers with only bachelor’s degrees in the mix. Now, with shortages only in a few specialized areas, the bulk of the H-1Bs requested are for expertise in highly specific fields that usually require advanced studies or in an overseas target market.”

H-1Bs continue to be a fuel for the economy. “This development shows that an arbitrary cap is not needed,” Kuck concluded. “Let’s let the marketplace do its job and regulate the numbers needed.”


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members.

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