H-1B Cap Rule – Did it Work?

The H-1B visa program is an essential pathway for highly skilled foreign professionals to work in the United States, particularly in industries such as technology, engineering, and healthcare. Nevertheless, the program’s cap rule has been the subject of ongoing discussion. This regulation restricts the annual issuance of H-1B visas to 85,000, with 65,000 visas reserved for regular applicants and an additional 20,000 visas reserved for individuals who have earned advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. The question remains: Has the H-1B cap rule been successful in accomplishing its intended objectives? We will investigate this subject with a particular emphasis on the San Diego region.

The Purpose of the H-1B Cap Rule

The H-1B cap rule was formulated to strike a balance between the necessity of safeguarding the interests of American workers and the demand for foreign skilled labor. By restricting the number of visas, the regulation intends to:

  1. Prevent an oversaturation of the labor market.
  2. Encourage companies to prioritize hiring U.S. citizens.
  3. Maintain the integrity of the immigration system.

The Impact on San Diego’s Tech and Healthcare Sectors

To attract top talent, San Diego, which is renowned for its thriving biotechnology and technology sectors, heavily relies on the H-1B visa program. In order to sustain competitiveness and foster innovation, Qualcomm, Illumina, and numerous startups rely on the expertise of foreign professionals. Nevertheless, these industries encounter both advantages and disadvantages as a result of the cap rule.


  1. Talent Shortages: The cap often leads to significant talent shortages. Many San Diego companies struggle to fill specialized positions, slowing down innovation and growth.
  2. Uncertainty and Delays: The lottery system used to allocate H-1B visas introduces uncertainty. Companies invest time and resources in the visa process, only to face potential delays and rejections if their applicants are not selected.
  3. Increased Costs: To navigate the cap, companies may incur additional costs for legal services and alternative visas, straining their budgets.


  1. Encourages Local Hiring: The cap rule motivates companies to explore local talent pools more thoroughly. This can lead to increased investment in training and development programs for U.S. workers.
  2. Prevents Overdependence: By limiting the number of foreign workers, the rule prevents companies from becoming overly reliant on international talent, promoting a balanced workforce.

The H-1B cap rule has succeeded in achieving some of its intended objectives, including the promotion of local hiring and the regulation of the influx of foreign workers. Nevertheless, its lottery-based allocation system and rigid structure have also presented substantial obstacles, particularly for industries that depend on specialized talent.

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