June 13, 2012
For Silicon Valley, a day of ritual disappointment came on June 12: The U.S. announced that the slots for 2013 H-1B visas had all been filled.
On the first business day in April, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services opens the rounds of petitioning for these coveted visas for highly skilled foreign workers. The agency awards the 85,000 visas on a first-come, first-served basis and companies scramble to get in their applications for foreign hires as quickly as they can. (Human resources managers, knowing the cap was close to being filled, worked through the weekend, racing to file.) The cap has been the same since 2004, with 65,000 slots for foreign hires and 20,000 spaces reserved for graduates of U.S. universities.
The speed at which the cap is reached is a loose indicator of the economy’s state. In 2007, slots filled up on May 26 (July 26 for university grads). In 2008, the cap was reached in a single day: April 2. In 2009, applications were sluggish and took eight months to reach the cap. In 2011, the slots were filled in seven months.