US work visa applications by South Koreans increase 80 per cent

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The number of South Korean citizens applying for a US work visa has risen sharply according to reports from the country's Ministry of Employment and Labor. Over the last three years - 2012-2015 - the number of applications made by South Korean nationals for a US immigrant work visa has surged, increasing by about 80 per cent.

Another popular type of visa, a non-immigrant visa, is the L-1A or L-1B intra-company transfer visa that can be utilised by S Koreans and others to transfer staff from overseas to the US. There is no visa quota for the L-1 visa.

In 2015, the number of accepted PERM (labor certification frequently required to obtain permanent employment related immigrant visas) requests reached 4,895, an 83 per cent increase compared to 2014 figures of 2,672. According to data from South Korea's Ministry of Labor and Employment, interest in working in the US has grown among the country's citizens every year since 2012, when 1,200 people were issued with PERMs.

PERM the electronic labor certification system (Program Electronic Review Management), came into use in March 2005. PERM was intended to reduce labor certification times.

Sources within South Korea's Ministry of Labor and Employment say that the figures identify a 'growing desire' among the country's younger generation – who are faced with increasing unemployment levels – to find employment overseas, particularly the US.

South Korea urged the US to increase H-1B visa quota

Back in August 2012, as reported by, South Korean authorities urged the US to increase the H-1B visa quota for its citizens. The H-1B visa is a temporary work visa allowing entry of graduate level employees for up to six years. A diplomatic source at the time said: "Riding on the South Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the South Korean government will step up efforts to increase the number of H-1B visas for its citizens seeking jobs in the US."

The most recent figures for the number of H-1B visas issued to South Koreans - published by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service in 2012 – revealed that approximately 3,500 are granted this US non-immigrant work visa every year.

At the time, South Korean officials argued that the available visas fell short of demand for H-1B visas to recruit South Korean nationals in the US. The goal for South Korea was to have a separate yearly quota of 15,000.

233,000 H-1B visa applications were made in April 2015. Only 85,000 H-1B visas are available. About 86 percent of these visas go to Indians. Clearly there is nothing like enough visas to meet demand for these visas.

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