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This year's H-1B cap is quickly reached -- and exceeded

This year's H-1B cap is quickly reached -- and exceeded

A computer-generated lottery will be held to distribute the visas

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) said Friday that the H-1B cap for FY 2018 has been reached. The agency will now hold a computer-generated lottery to distribute the visas.

The USCIS didn't say how many visa petitions it received, and an agency spokeswoman said counting up the final number will take a week or two.

The U.S. began accepting petitions on Monday, April 3. This quick announcement means that the cap was not only reached but exceeded -- and probably by a very large number.

Last year, the U.S. government received 236,000 visa petitions for FY 2017, a new record. In FY 2016, the U.S. received 233,000 petitions.

The H-1B visa cap is set by Congress at 85,000 visas annually.

Proponents of a visa cap increase, a group that includes two key Republican lawmakers, will say that the large number of visa H-1B petitions reflects economic demand.

Critics will argue that the growing number of requests points to a strategy by large IT services firms, which can claim as many as half of the visas, to file excessive numbers of petitions to ensure they get some bare minimum of visa approvals.

The government's 2015 data on H-1B visa holders reported that 70% of the H-1B applicants were from India, and 10% from China. And roughly 70% of the visa holders were between the ages of 25 and 34.

About 65% of the visa petitions will be for be computer-related occupations. Of that number, about 55% will seek approval to work in systems analysis and programming.

The U.S. recently tightened up its rules on H-1B programmers, a move that could lead to more denials.

The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

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