U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on April 1 began accepting from employers H-1B visa petitions to hire foreign workers for fiscal 2010, which starts Oct. 1.
But to date, the agency has received approximately 45,000 petitions toward the 65,000 general cap and approximately 20,000 petitions for the advanced-degree category. USCIS is continuing to accept petitions for both categories, since not all of the applications received so far will end up being approved for actual visas.
The recession is being blamed for the relative weak demand for H-1B visas this year. In recent years, the USCIS stopped taking new H-1B visa applications within days of accepting the petitions for the next fiscal year.
Supporters of the H-1B visa program, including technology companies, have been lobbying Congress for years to raise the H-1B visa cap back to at least 115,000, the level in 2000.
However, opponents to H-1B visas argue that abuse and fraud, including allegations of employers hiring foreign workers at cheap wages, mar the program.
While the research by University of Maryland suggests that pay is actually higher on average for noncitizen IT professionals, others believe new legislation is needed to reform the H-1B and L-1 programs.
In fact, late last week, Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Richard Durbin, D-Ill., introduced a bill aimed at eliminating alleged H-1B and L-1 visa fraud and abuse. The proposed legislation is similar to a bipartisan bill the two senators introduced in 2007 when Congress was weighing a more comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration policy.
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