Lottery held to decide who gets American work visa

Updated: 2013-04-09 11:48

By HU HAIDAN in New York (China Daily)

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Dong Jie says if he doesn't get one he will return to China. Vivian Li says if she fails to get one she will marry her fianc to stay in the United States.

The "one" for is an H-1B work visa that would allow them to temporarily stay. Each filed a petition for a visa, but because the number of petitions - approximately 124,000 - exceeded the congressional-mandated quota of 85,000 during five days of applications , a computer-generated lottery decided who gets the visas.

On Sunday, US Citizenship and Immigration Services, which oversees the process, held the lottery, its first since 2008.

The agency is notifying successful applicants by US mail. Petitions not selected in the lottery will be returned by mail and the filing fee will be refunded. It costs about $1,820 for an H-1B petition, including various fees.

The nonimmigrant visa allows US employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in such specialty fields as science, math and technology.

The visa is good for three years and may be extended to six years.

Dong said his parents asked him to prepare for both getting a visa and not getting one. But he said if he's not selected, he'll return to China when his student visa expires. He declined to say when that is.

Dong also said he doesn't want to apply for another master's program to get a new student visa so he can legally stay in the US.

"If I can keep the job, it's good," he said. "But if I can't, I'd rather go back to China to find another job instead of going back to school in the US."

Li, a 28-year-old Chinese student who graduated last summer from George Washington University with a master's degree in accounting, is working as an accountant at a firm in Washington.

She said it took her almost half a year to find a job with an employer who would support her petition to apply for the work visa.

Li said that if she doesn't get a visa, she will marry her fianc this summer so she can remain in the country.

He is Chinese, has an H-1B visa and also works in Washington.

This year, the quota cap was reached in the five days for filing petitions, from April 1 to April 5. The cap was reached in just over two months last year. During the recession in 2010, the cap was not reached until late December.

The work-visa petition must be initiated by companies, and the high number of petitions is a sign that companies feel confident enough about the economy to hire more foreign workers.

Many high-tech companies such as Google Inc and Microsoft Corp are supporting a bill in Congress that would increase the cap depending on how many applications were submitted in previous years.

The bill would also give green cards to foreigners with advanced science and engineering degrees from US universities.

Changes to the H-1B process may become part of the comprehensive immigration legislation that Congress is considering.