Immigration's H-1B Cap and
Status of Penn Staff
On May 11, 1998, the Immigration and Naturalization Service announced that the H-1B cap of 65,000 had been reached, the result being that no new H-1B visa classifications will be granted until October 1,1998.
While this was anticipated, the consequence of reaching the cap more than four months before the end of the federal calendar year has a dramatic impact on the professional and personal lives of many. Currently at Penn, we have 20 or so new and continuing staff who will not be able to begin or continue employment.
Only individuals applying for H-1B status for the first time are affected. Those applying for H-1B extensions, or change of H-1B employers ("sequential employment"), are not affected by the cap.
For each of the affected cases, OIP staff is working with the department and individual to see what options exist and to try and find a interim solution within the legal limitations of the immigration regulations. Bills are being "fast-tracked" in Congress to increase the cap to 90,000 or 95,000 for this year and several years to come; but if this legislation is passed and signed into law it may take a month or so before it is enacted, so this may not provide immediate relief.
What remains unclear at this time is what happens to an individual whose lawful status expires prior to the effective date of his or her H-1B classification because of the unavailability of H-1B visas. Also, among the Penn cases are a number of individuals who hold another status, such as F-1 or J-1, whose lawful stays are expired or expiring and who are at some point in the process of applying for H-1B status. In some instances, these individuals have had to or will have to stop working. We will continue to seek clarification on this matter from the INS.
Departments seeking to use the H-1B status for new (or continuing employees who will need H-1B status for the first time) after October 1, 1998, please continue to file as early as possible. If the cap is not increased, it is likely that the 65,000 will be reached much earlier in FY 1999.
The INS notice of May 11, in the Federal Register, answers many of the principal questions that arise. It can be found via our home page: www.upenn.edu/oip.
--Ann Kuhlman, Associate Director, Office of International
Almanac, Vol. 44, No. 35, June 16, 1998