The US Citizenship and Immigration Services has received only half the 65,000 H1-B applications it requires to fill up the general quota category in the first five day after it began receiving applications April 1.
The category for advanced degree holders from US universities was just short of the annual cap of 20,000. Last year, in the first five days the USCIS received 163,000 applications in both categories. In 2007, they filled the annual cap in two days.
The USCIS announced April 8 that it would accept applications until the annual cap is met for the fiscal year 2010 that begins October.
Morley J Nair, a Philadelphia-based attorney, said that last year the general quota was filled faster than the quota for advanced degree holders.
"The trend is reversed this year. Most employers prefer applicants from [the US], so that they need not go through a consular process," he said.
If the USCIS receives the number of petitions required to meet the H-1B caps, it will stop taking applications, even those that were mailed before the final date, according to a USCIS release.
If the number of applicants is more than the annual cap on the final date, the USCIS may randomly select from the applications to reach the numerical limit. Only new applicants come under the cap, not those who renew their H1-B visas or change employers.
Immigration activists are happy that there is no rush for H1-B visas. A rush for the H1-Bs in an year of high unemployment will result in negative publicity, they point out.
US Senators Richard Durbin and Charles Grassley have sponsored a bill to restrict the H1-B program, which the Senate will soon take up. This bill aims to make the program unusable for all practical purposes, these activists say.