Applications for H-1B visas are down about a third from a year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services. The agency began accepting applications for H-1B visas on April 1, and says the preliminary numbers indicate that petitions from foreign workers with at least a bachelor's degree have fallen by about half, but petitions from graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees are close to reaching the cap for 20,000 visas. Many of the applications from graduates "are likely from people who are already in the workforce and participating in OPT [Optional Practical Training]," says Robert Hoffman, co-chairman of Compete America, a coalition of businesses and universities that wants to increase the H-1B cap. "What the numbers reaffirm is that this is a program that essentially tracks with the broader demand in the economy."
Foreign students can apply for an H-1B visa after they graduate in May, so both visa caps could still be reached for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The government received 163,000 H-1B visa petitions for 85,000 visas at this time last year.
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