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H-1B visas granted to workers using lottery system

Employers in South Carolina who are hoping to hire talented foreign workers may have to wait until 2017. Applications for 2016 H-1B visas far exceeded the yearly cap established by Congress, and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services was forced to use a lottery system to decide which workers would receive one of the 85,000 work visas.

H-1B visas are designated for talented foreign workers in the computer programming, engineering and science fields. Every year, USCIS grants 20,000 of these visas to workers who hold master's degrees and 65,000 visas to workers with bachelor's degrees. Congress has set an annual limit on H-1B visas that many tech companies are unhappy with.

One U.S. employer said that the annual cap on H-1B visas creates a situation where economic growth in the U.S. is left up to chance. Employers who are hoping to hire talented foreign engineers and scientists to work at their companies had this year only a 36 percent chance of being allowed to do so. According to a coalition called Compete America, which represents companies such as Microsoft, Facebook and Amazon, limits on H-1B visas results in the loss of 500,000 jobs every year in the U.S.

Although securing H-1B visas is extremely competitive, companies might have other employment immigration options available to them if they wish to retain their foreign workers. An immigration attorney may be able to help an employer who is hoping to secure visas for their foreign workers to find alternatives. That way, if an H-1B visa is not available for a worker in a particular year, the worker may be allowed to stay in the country on a different type of visa.

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