SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) —This year, 236,000 foreigners applied for H-1B visas, the most common available for highly-skilled workers from outside the U.S. — that number is up 3,000 from 2015, and even more significantly from 2014, which saw just 172,500 applicants.
Of all the applications, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will grant just 85,000 H-1B visas — 20,000 of which are reserved for holders of a master’s degree — when they are awarded on April 9. The selection process is handled with a lottery system.
For applicants, and employees, the best thing they can do is sit and wait.
“The lottery makes everything very uncertain,” said immigration lawyer Tahmina Watson of Watson Immigration Law, who said she was anticipating that the number of applications would indeed be higher this year.
Because of the growing demands, regions such as Massachusetts, Colorado and most recently New York City, have introduced programs to assist applicants in maneuvering around the H-1B cap. With the help of universities, a select number of applicants have the ability to bypass the annual quotas.
In Silicon Valley, the incubator of modern technology, executives have spoken out about the dire need for skilled workers, and the equal need for immigration reform for the sake of fostered innovation. Unless provided with a pathway to stay in the U.S. skilled workers from outside the country could take their innovation and ideas to other companies.
According to a recent study from the National Foundation for American Policy, more than 50 percent of the U.S.’s “unicorns,” or privately-held companies deemed to be worth $1 billion or more, had at least one immigrant founder.
Ron Conway, a Silicon Valley angel investor and philanthropist, recently spoke out in favor of immigration reform for the highly-skilled.
“28% of new [tech] startups in American are started by immigrants,” said Conway.
Conway himself is one of the original backers of FWD.us, a group focused specifically on immigration reform that was launched by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his fellow tech CEOs in 2013.
“We have CEOs who can’t even stay in the country with the rest of their team. That’s the most catastrophic case,” he added.