There will be an additional 20,000 visa numbers available soon for first-time H-1B holders. These extra numbers were added as a result of a passage of the H-1B Reform Act legislation this winter.
On Monday, March 7, 2005, USCIS advised that the 20,000 visas would NOT be limited to Masters/PhDs but made available to all qualified H-1B applicants. It also stated that the opening of the application period would be announced in a Federal Register notice to be published "soon". Please see the attached pdf file.
We still do not know the exact basis for the announcement, but suspect it has to do with some USCIS assessment that they have already issued 20,000 Master/PhD visas in FY05, and that the "extra" 20,000 therefore do not have to be limited to this category, since the overall FY-05 allocations will satisfy the intent of the implementing legislation.
In order to determine when the H-1B petitions for the additional 20,000 numbers will be accepted, readers are advised to check the USCIS website (www.uscis.gov) or the Federal Register. It is expected that these numbers will run out very quickly.
There is division of opinion on whether or not the new 20,000 visas should be restricted to those with Masters/PhDs (as this was the original legislative intent) or to all people who are qualified to apply. Reactions on Capitol Hill and amongst the business community are reportedly also divided.
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