Applications for H-1B visas increased rapidly since October, indicating growing demand for skilled foreign staff from US companies
Demand for US H-1B visas has grown dramatically in the past month and a half, according to a report on Computerworld.com.
Figures released by the US Citizenship and Immigration Service showed a spike in applications, after a quiet summer, indicating that US companies are again looking for foreign workers to fill skilled positions.
The demand seen in the past six to eight weeks has driven up the number of visa petitions to 58,900, approaching the 65,000 cap for financial year 2010.
The demand spike may also be down to companies switching existing foreign temporary workers on L-1B visas to the more stable H-1B visa, and demand for visas for students who have recently graduated with technical qualifications.
If the level cap is reached, which is expected to happen possibly by the start of next year, visas would then be allocated on a lottery basis, which is also fuelling the rush for visas as companies push through applications for staff.
The H-1B visa allows US employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations, and has been widely used by the IT and technology sectors to secure skilled employees.
Many non-US offshoring companies also rely on H-1B to be able to place their staff with customers in the US.
The system is controversial however, with opponents saying that jobs should go to American citizens first. There is currently legislation proposed to the US Senate which would prevent any company that has already laid off 50 or more workers from hiring guest workers, which could potentially affect a large number of technology firms that have laid off large numbers of workers but continue hiring to fill other roles.