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United States: USCIS announces new H1B rule

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Under a new rule announced by United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS), employers will be prohibited from filing multiple H-1B applications for the same employee.

The new rule is designed to ensure that companies filing H-1B petitions have an equal chance to employ an H-1B worker when the 1 April 2008 filing date starts. USCIS will deny or revoke multiple petitions filed by an employer for the same foreign employee and will not refund filing fees submitted with multiple or duplicated petitions.

However, related employers, such as a parent company and its subsidiary, can still apply for the same H-1B worker for different petitions, based on a "legitimate business need".

This latest rule comes as part of a series of immigration and border security reforms announced by President Bush in August of 2007.

The United States H-1B program allows US companies to hire highly skilled foreign nationals who have a Bachelor's degree or higher, such as scientists, engineers, and computer programmers. The H-1B program is capped at 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with another 20,000 allotted for foreign nationals who have earned a Master's degree or higher from a US university.

Last year, USCIS received enough H-1B petitions on the first day of filing to satisfy that year's 65,000 cap. By 30 April 2007, USCIS received enough petitions to cover the 20,000 H-1B visa quota for foreign individuals who have earned a Master's degree or higher from a United States university. Anyone considering employment in the US as an H-1B worker is encouraged to prepare now.