Oct. 5, 2004--On Oct. 1, 2004, United States Citizenship and Immigration officials announced that the H-1B cap on visas had been reached, barring employers from hiring new H-1B foreign professionals for a year unless Congress acts to restore the program.

Some of the H-1B professionals employers lose access to include graduates from U.S. Master's and Doctorate programs, including foreign nationals who have graduated from graduate-level math and science programs. "Prohibiting access to these world-class minds raises troubling issues," said Paul Zulkie, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, in statement. "Not only would U.S. employers miss out on American-educated talent, but we would be handing this talent to competitors abroad."

For small and medium sized businesses, the exhaustion of H-1B visas mean losing access to an important resource for critical business needs. "A small and medium sized business will often use the H-1B visa to get access to an individual with a certain skill set they would not otherwise find in the local marketplace," said Joanna Hedvall, a business immigration associate with AILA. "The H-1B enables them to create new products or develop new services or expand into larger markets because they're able to get someone with the exact skill set they need," she added.

The AILA is calling on Congress to restore the program before the 108th Congressional session ends.