Applications for the US H-1B, or skilled worker, visas started being accepted yesterday, and the annual quota is on track to be met within days, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The program allows US companies to sponsor 65,000 foreigners with at least a bachelor's degree and 20,000 foreigners with a master's degree or higher from US institutions as specialized workers.
Lynden Melmed, the former chief counsel of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and immigration lawyer, writes at the Hill's Congress blog that those numbers have remained static since the 1990s, even as demand has increased.
He adds that the number of foreign science, technology, engineering, and mathematics students at US universities has increased and those students will need visas to stay in the country after graduation.
He also argues that the caps on the visas should be increased, and that move will also help American workers as fees the visas generate enable scholarships for US students.
Higher H-1B numbers have appeared in two immigration bills, one passed by the Senate and one by the House Judiciary committee last year, though no movement has been seen on either in months, Bloomberg BNA notes.
It adds that Aman Kapoor from Immigration Voice, an organization that represents high-skilled foreign workers, has argued against the H-1B program, instead saying that employers should seek green cards for their workers.
For this year, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services says the demand for these visas is high, and that both caps will likely be met by next Monday. "The agency is prepared to use a random selection process to meet the numerical limit," it tells the Journal.