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This year's H-1B cap is reached at quicker pace

Feds announce on day before Thanksgiving that cap was reached some two months earlier than last year

The annual H-1B cap has been reached for this year, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and at a pace that is two months ahead of last year.

The U.S. issues 85,000 H-1B visas each year under its cap, with 20,000 of that number set aside for advanced degree graduates of U.S. universities.

The USCIS, which begins accepting H-1B petitions on April 1 of each year, announced on Wednesday that the openings for fiscal 2012 have been filled.

In 2010, the H-1B cap wasn't reached until Jan. 26 of this year. In 2009, the H-1B cap was reached on Dec. 21, 2009.

Prior to the recession, the cap was often reached in as little as a week .

The H-1B visa is one of the most controversial issues in tech.

Opponents say it's facilitating job losses through offshoring , lowers wages and leads to age discrimination for U.S. workers. Supporters argue that the visa is needed to hire foreign graduates of U.S. universities, as well as allow firms to be economically competitive by moving work to lower wage regions.

In the U.S. House, the recent focus has been on permanent residency. Bills by both parties have been bill introduced in the House to make green cards available to advanced degree graduates of U.S. universities.

In the Senate, Sen. Charles Schumer has promised an immigration bill that would include H-1B reforms. Last year, Schumer sponsored legislation. later signed into law, which increases H-1B fees by $2,000 on offshore firms. He said the visa has created " multinational temp agencies ."

One of the most ardent advocates of late for increasing the H-1B cap has been New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who recently called for eliminating the caps on H-1B visas and on employment based green cards. He said the caps are a form of " national suicide ."

Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov , or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is [email protected] .

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