- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2018

It took less than a week for businesses to snap up all 85,000 of the high-skilled visas available for 2019, the Trump administration said Friday, announcing that it has already received more than enough petitions to account for all of the H-1B visas it’s allowed to give out next year.

The application period opened April 2 and is required to remain open for five days, giving companies a fair chance to apply. But that means far more applications are received than the 85,000 slots available, so U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the legal immigration arm of Homeland Security, will hold a lottery to pick the actual visa-winners.

The visas are among the most controversial the government doles out, with high-tech companies desperate to win them to bring foreign workers here — prompting stories of American workers who trained the foreign workers, then were fired and replaced with the workers they just trained.

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This marks the sixth year in a row that the cap was reached in the first week and a lottery has to be held.

During the Great Recession it would sometimes take months to reach the cap, as businesses contracted or looked inside the U.S. for workers.

Todd Schulte, president of FWD.us, a pro-immigration lobby backed by major tech executives, said the fact that the cap is consistently reached so quickly is evidence that the system needs to be reformed.

“That’s it for the entire year for our nation’s ability to bring in the best and brightest individuals through the H-1B program to come create American jobs,” he said in a statement. “In addition to forcing us to miss out on the creation of American jobs, these arbitrary limits will stifle medical innovation and wage growth, and will hurt our economy.”

The 85,000 limit on H-1Bs is set in law. Some 65,000 of those are up for grabs in generally, while another 20,000 are set aside specifically for those with advanced degrees in their fields.

Some other H-1B workers are exempt from the cap altogether.

Last year the government received nearly 200,000 petitions in that first week for the 85,000 slots.

President Trump has called for H-1B visa applications to face stiffer scrutiny to try to weed out fraud and make sure they aren’t taking jobs from eligible and willing American workers.

To win an H-1B visa a company must show that it seeks a worker with specialized knowledge. The visas are particularly sought for science, computer programming and engineering fields, though President Trump’s wife, Melania, came to work in the U.S. as a fashion model on an H-1B visa.

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