US Increases Number of H-1B Visas Issued to Indians

US Immigration has issued a record number of H-1B work visas for Indian citizens this year. According to a press release from the US embassy in India, the 2011 fiscal year saw 24% more visas being issued than in 2010. A total of 67,195 visas were issued this fiscal year versus 54,111 in 2010. It is interesting to note that earlier this month there were complaints from India stating that the US State Department was making the H-1B visa process too difficult.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant work visa that allows US employers to hire foreign workers with a bachelors degree or higher to come work in the US in highly specialised skills occupations such as in the education, finance, IT, and medical fields. The visa is valid for up to three years from issuance and applicants can reapply for another three years for a total of six years.

"This 24% increase is tied to the highest ever H-1B application and issuance rates in the history of the U.S. [Diplomatic] Mission to India, and illustrates the booming nature of U.S.-India business relations," said the press release, which is based off an annual fiscal year-end statistical report produced by the US embassy. The U.S. Government's fiscal year ended on 30 September 2011.

Currently there is a cap of 65,000 H1-B visas issued per year with an additional 20,000 available to those with Masters degrees from US Universities.

"India is the single largest beneficiary of H-1B visas by a wide margin: in the past four years, applicants in India have received more than twice as many H-1B visas as the four next-highest countries combined," the US State Department stated in the release.

The State Department also stated that India "remains the leader in issuances of L-1 (intra-company transfer) visas, issuing more than 25,000 L-1s in 2011 – or 37% of issuances worldwide."

L-1 visas are valid for an initial period of up to three years and can be extended up to seven years for management level staff. They are issued to employees working for companies with offices in both the US and their home country. The visa allows the employee to work at their company's offices in the US. International managers may in many circumstances also qualify for a "Green Card".

India's US consulates in Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata have expanded their staff and facilities to process the increase in applications.

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