US officials expect H-1B visa quota to be filled in a week

US immigration authorities have started accepting applications for the highly sought-after H-1B work visas, amidst fears that the quota of 65,000 might get filled up in the first week itself.

Officials said the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said there would not be daily updates, but, instead, will make an announcement when the cap is reached.

USCIS also said it would hold a lottery to determine who gets the 65,000 H-1B visas that are available for fiscal 2014.

The US Congress has approved a maximum of 65,000 H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2014 beginning 1 October 2013. This could go up by another 20,000 H-1B visas for those having masters or higher degree from US academic institutions.

However, the two centers - the Vermont Service Center and the California Service Center – where USCIS received H-1B applications, said business was as usual.

USCIS had, last week, said it expected to the number of applications to exceed the number of visas between 1 April and 5 April itself.

The USCIS normally receives more visa applications than it can accept and the selection in such cases is done through a lottery system of random selection, the agency said.

While there was a lottery with the H-1B applications exceeding the cap on the first day itself in April 2008,in 2012, it took 73 days for the USCIS to fill in the cap, while in took 235 days to receive applications to fill the 65,000 H-1B numbers in 2011, 300 days in 2010, and 264 days in 2009.

Meanwhile, reports said the IT software industry in the US has called for lifting curbs on immigration of highly-skilled foreign workers on a priority basis.

''It will be frenzy, because the cap of 65,000 visas is nowhere near high enough to meet demand,'' Robert Holleyman, CEO and president of software alliance BSA, said.

''If you didn't know better, you might think the H1B petition-filing frenzy had something to do with April Fools' Day. But it's no joke,'' he said.

''There are individual software companies with thousands of unfilled jobs in research, product development, and engineering. Across the economy, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that between 2010 and 2020 there will be at least 1.2 million job openings in computing professions that require a bachelor's degree. But the National Center for Educational Statistics says we're on pace to produce less than half that many graduates,'' reports quoted Holleyman as saying.