A recent report from the Brookings Institute gives a really good overview on how H1-B visa applications work. These are visas for skilled foreign workers who receive temporary visas to be employed in the US, usually in three year periods.
The key takeaways:
- Demand for H-1B visas greatly exceeds the annual cap. In 2010-11, there were 325,000 requests with about 125,000 visas granted (see below).
- The vast majority of requests are from the private sector. Nonprofit institutes of higher education and government are exempted from caps, but represent only ~10% of annual H-1B requests.
- Timing matters! See Figure 3 above - the window for H-1B requests opens in April of each year and can run out very quickly (see 2007 or 2008). This means that employers have to wait until the following April to get in the window with new applications.
- Massachusetts has one of the top 10 metro areas for applications.
Massachusetts saw ~11,500 H-1B visa applications in 2010-11, which represented 3.5% of all applications, driven by a mix of private corporations and universities.
What does this mean for me?
The best time to be applying for an H-1B is right when the window opens - so finding a job by February or March will give you a much greater opportunity to fit into the window than finding a job in the summer, when the cap may have already been reached. However, if your employer is exempted from the cap, then timing matters less - your application will be accepted purely based on its merits.
Will this change? Maybe - legislators are aware of these issues, but political solutions are often slow and unpredictable. And despite the obvious importance of having a skilled workforce, the economic recession makes encouraging more immigration politically difficult.
In any case, working with your potential employer and a great immigration attorney is a must. Visa rules are constantly changing, and there are potential ways of getting around the strict caps. Massachusetts has some of the best visa attorneys in the US, and their advice can make a big difference.
Any comments or questions? Please share them with us.