10 April 2012

Recovering economy to thank for surge in US visa applications

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The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) agency has already received almost double the number of US visa applications for the skilled foreign worker programme in the first week than the entire first month of the previous year, a promising sign, say many, of the recovering US economy.

US visa

The recovering economy in the US has resulted in more jobs for foreign workers.

USCIS allocates 85,000 US visa grants for foreign skilled workers each year yet, with a sluggish economy still struggling to shake off the effects of a recession, application rates have fallen in recent years.

The 85,000 visas are split into two groups, 65,000 are allocated to a variety of foreign nationals with skills in the general category while the remaining 20,000 are allocated to those with advanced skills, typically those requiring a Master's degree or higher.

The window for applications to the H-1B visa programme, which allows holders to live and work in the US on a temporary basis, opened on 2, April and USCIS reports that it received 25,600 applications within the first week, compared to just 14,000 in all of April in 2011.

Many are attributing the rise in application rates to the recovering US economy which has seen the labour market begin to grow again for the first time.

"Given the improved economy, it would not be surprising to see the quota filled very early this year," said Stuart Anderson, executive director for the National Foundation for American Policy.

The H-1B programme has attracted criticism in the past from both supporters of US immigration policy, who claim that 85,000 is an arbitrary number which does not address specific economic needs, and its detractors who claim that migrants displace Americans from much needed jobs.

However, the increased number of applications has already translated into increased workloads for some.

"We're the busiest we have been in four years," said Steve Miller, an immigration specialist in Seattle, who claimed that the American labour market was once again becoming a great, competitive destination for many workers.

"We're seeing a widespread increase in hiring of new employees, there's greater competition in the marketplace for top talent."

The American Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries make their ESTA application.

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