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US H1B visa quota filled

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US immigration officials said they have stopped accepting applications for H-1B visas for high-tech and specialty workers because they already have filled the 2006 quota.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, received enough applications by 11 August to meet the quota, the agency said. The cutoff of applications comes a little more than a month earlier than last year, and is the earliest the cap has ever been reached.

Federal law provides 65,000 H-1B visas every fiscal year, which begins 1 October. Of those, 6,800 are set aside for workers from Chile and Singapore under terms of US trade agreements with those countries.

The visas are granted to foreigners in specialty professions such as scientists, engineers and computer programmers. H-1B visas are good for up to six years. Under the programme, employers must pay foreign workers prevailing wages for their job fields and show that qualified US workers are not being passed over.

High-tech and other employers say too few such visas are available and more are needed, but groups representing labor unions and high-tech workers say Americans are being replaced by foreign workers who work for less money.

The quota does not apply to cases filed for individuals with U.S. masters' degrees or above who are eligible for one of the 20,000 special H-1B cap exemptions.


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[ Last updated 06 April 2007 to add links to more recent news. ]