US immigration H-1B visa cap met for foreign skilled workers

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced they have received enough petitions for graduate level skilled workers under the H-1B visa program to meet the cap of 65,000 for fiscal year 2012. This is the earliest the visa cap has been reached in the past three years, signifying renewed demand for this visa program.

Each year on April 1 the USCIS begins accepting H-1B petitions for the new fiscal year; USCIS announced the cap for H-1B visa applications was officially reached on 22 November, two months ahead of last year.

US businesses use the H-1B visa to employ foreign skilled workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise such as scientists, engineers or computer programmers. etc. The work visa is valid for up to three years from issuance and applicants can reapply for another three years for a total of six years.

US Immigration will continue to accept and process applications filed to extend current H-1B visas, change employment terms or employers, and to allow current H-1B visa holders to work concurrently in a second H-1B position.

The H-1B visa is very popular for many US IT firms looking to recruit skilled workers from abroad. Part of the renewed demand, particularly from Indians, may be due to US immigration creating stricter regulations about issuing visas for other visa categories, such as for L1s and B1s.

Apart from the annual quota of 65,000, an additional 20,000 H1-B visas are available every year under the advanced degree exemption for those who have a Master's or higher degree. This visa cap was met on 19 October 2011.

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