In the past few years, the annual “season” to obtain an H-1B visa has been as brief as the bear-hunting season in New Jersey. This presents a quandary because the H-1B is used by businesses to permit highly skilled foreign workers to enter the United States to work in “specialty occupation” positions. To be considered a specialty occupation, the alien must have the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree in the field required by that position.

In the late 1990s, due to increasing demand for skilled workers, Congress dramatically increased the number of new H-1B visas available each fiscal year (the H-1B cap) to 195,000 in fiscal years 2001 to 2003. However, since 2004, when the H-1B cap returned to its former level (65,000), H-1B visas have become unavailable at an earlier date every year. In fiscal year 2006, the general H-1B cap was reached on Aug. 10, 2005; and in fiscal year 2007, the H-1B cap was reached on May 26, 2006, only 56 days after USCIS began accepting H-1B petitions.

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