USCIS reports increase in H-1B visa applications compared to last year

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reported a large increase in skilled foreign worker H-1B visa applications during the first week of this year's application season. USCIS has received 25,600 petitions for H-1B visas since 2 April 2012, nearly twice as many as it received for the entire first month of last year's application period.

USCIS officially began accepting H-1B applications last week for positions with a start date of 1 October 2012 or later. The visas are popular for those in IT occupations and engineering.

"Given the improved economy…it would not be surprising to see the quota filled very early this year," said Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, a group that studies the H-1B program.

There are a total of 85,000 new H-1B visas made available each government fiscal year. This consists of 65,000 new H-1B visas available for graduate level overseas workers in professional or specialty occupation positions, and an additional 20,000 visas available for those with an advanced degree from a US academic institution.

Last week, USCIS received 17,400 H-1B applications in the general category and 8,200 in the advanced degree category. This is compared to last year's first week of H-1B applications wherein the government received 5,900 H-1B petitions counting toward the 65,000 cap, and about 4,500 petitions for the 20,000 advanced degrees cap.

Demand for the skilled-worker visas has fluctuated in past years and many say the increase in H-1B visa applications in such a short period of time this year may be a sign of a recovering US economy.

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