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Friday, July 24, 2009

H-1B Cap Thoughts

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On May 15 the USCIS announced that it has received 45,500 H-1B petitions counting toward the Congressionally-mandated 65,000 cap; this is only 500 more than the April 27 figure. This implies that H-1B petitions continue to slow. It also implies that the idea that the H-1B is used to lower wages and replace US workers is wildly overblown. As I’ve previously said, if that was the case there shouldn’t be any material drop in H-1B usage.

The Masters cap has received the full subscription of 20,000 petitions. USCIS continues to accept Masters cases since their experience is that not all accepted cases will be approvable. As students graduate from university in late May and June, it is expected that there will be an uptick in H-1B usage. The degree of the uptick is unknown at this point. If the uptick is smaller than expected, there is a chance that the H-1B cap could remain open all summer and maybe even into the fall. On the other hand, the economy does show some flares of stability and so H-1B usage by May/June graduates could be notable.

For the healthcare industry, the H-1B remains an option to fill employment gaps in occupational shortages. As a general rule if the position requires a Bachelors degree for licensure, then the position is appropriate for an H-1B visa. Of course, the proposed worker must hold the requisite degree.

Physical Therapists and Occupational Therapists remain viable for H-1B visas. Cases filed at the Vermont Service Center are being approved as they should be. However inconsistent results out of the California Service Center continue to frustrate employers.

USCIS Chief of Service Center Operations has recently confirmed that “USCIS does not currently have a policy that employers filing H-1b petitions for physical and occupational therapists must require the minimum of a Masters Degree for such positions to qualify as specialty occupations.” This pronouncement was made in early May, and so it remains to be seen whether or not the California Service Center will adhere to the statement from their superiors in Washington D.C.

Some registered nursing positions are appropriate for H-1B visas as well. In broad strokes, the H-1B is appropriate for RN positions if either:

1. The hospital is offering the nurse a position as a Clinical nurse specialist (CNS), Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), Certified nurse-midwife (CNM), or a Certified nurse practitioner (APRN-certified) Critical care and she holds the certification;

2. The nurse will be working in an Administrative position ordinarily associated with a Bachelors degree, such as Charge Nurse or Nurse Manager;

3. The nurse will be working in one of these specialties: peri-operative, school health, occupational health, rehabilitation nursing, emergency room nursing, critical care, operating room, oncology and pediatrics.

The hospital must attest that these roles are only offered to those with Bachelors degrees.


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