US consular staff in India report that the number of H category visas granted in US consulates in India rose by 16,000 in the 2012 financial year while the number of L-1 visas granted fell slightly.
The number of L-1 visas granted in India fell by 'a few thousand' according to Indian newspaper The Economic Times while the number of H category visas granted rose from 114,000 in 2011 to 130,000 in 2012, an increase of some 15%.
The main H category work visa for which Indians apply is the H-1B work visa. H-1B visas are granted to graduates who are skilled in a 'specialty occupation'. Most H-1B visas are granted to specialist graduates often in IT, engineering and science. These visas are usually issued for a three year initial period though they can be extended. Successful applicants can bring their close family members with them. The number of H-1B visas that can be issued in any one year is capped at 65,000 for graduates with a further 20,000 which can be issued to those with masters' degrees. However, as applicants can bring immediate family members with them under the H-4 visa category this accounts for the high number of H category visas granted.
Defense and fashionThere are two further categories of H-1B visas. H-1B2 is for Department of Defense employees and H-1B3 for fashion models. Only well-known fashion models are likely to qualify for an H-1B3 visa.
Other H class visas are the H-1C for registered nurses, the H-2A visa for seasonal agricultural workers, the H-2B for seasonal, non-agricultural workers and the H-3 for trainees, other than medical or academic trainees.
The families of the holders of H-class visas can travel to the US on H-4 visas.
L-1 visas are intra company transfer visas which allow companies that have offices in the US and elsewhere to transfer valuable employees to the US in certain circumstances. Senior managers can apply for an L-1A visa which will last for up to seven years. Skilled employees with 'specialized knowledge' can apply for L-1B visas if their specialized knowledge means that it would be hard to find US staff who could do the job. L-1B visas last for up to five years. Both these visas allow holders to take their family to stay with them in the US during their stay.
'Quicker decisions and lower refusal rates'The US moved all its capability for deciding 'blanket petitions' for L1 visas to Chennai in 2011. According to Julia Stanley, minister counsellor for consular affairs at the US embassy in Delhi told The Economic Times newspaper, 'The consolidation of blanket petitions for the L1 visas at our Chennai consulate a year ago has led to specialisation of some of our staff members in that category. We are now seeing quicker decisions and a slow and steady increase in the issuance rate of blanket L1s and lower refusal rates.'
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