The H-1B visa program is used by some U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in a specialized field and a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. Typical H-1B occupations include architects, engineers, computer programmers, accountants, doctors, and college professors.

Congress sets annual numerical limitations (caps) on H-1B visas, which control the number of workers that can be issued a visa in a given fiscal year to enter the United States. Caps also control the number of aliens already in the United States that may be authorized to change status to a cap-subject classification. The current annual cap on the H-1B category is 65,00. Note that 6,800 visas are set aside for nationals from Chile and Singapore, leaving 58,200 visas for all other nationals. An additional 20,000 H-1B visas are exempted from the cap and are available for foreign workers with a Master’s or higher level degree from a U.S. academic institution.

As of August 28, 2009, approximately 45,100 H-1B cap-subject petitions had been received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and counted towards the H-1B cap. Approximately 20,000 petitions qualifying for the advanced degree cap exemption had been filed. USCIS will continue to accept both cap-subject petitions and advanced degree petitions until a sufficient number of H-1B petitions have been received to reach the statutory limits.