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Foreign workers with special skills urged to apply for residency

Engineering professionals often use an H-1B visa to gain access to the U.S. workforce.

People looking to send money to their families by utilizing a unique skill or sphere of knowledge may now be able to live in the U.S., thanks in large part to what they can bring to the American workforce and economy.

As of March 15, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has begun accepting H-1B applications, which are given to foreign workers who have a background in a special field of study. These visas benefit both the worker and the business, as they allow those who wish to come to the U.S. with a means of entry and business owners get to take advantage of talented workers.

The earlier that foreign citizens apply, the more likely it is that they'll be able to be considered. USCIS notes that a maximum of 65,000 applications will be accepted for the 2014 fiscal year, which will begin on October 1.

However, there are some caveats to this rule. For example, people with advanced degrees are in high demand, mainly because they can be hard to come by. This means that approximately 20,000 H-1B petitions that are filed among people with master's degrees will not count toward the maximum allotment. In other words, 20,000 petitions will be exempt from the fiscal year cap of 65,000.

Cap number to be reached quickly
Since USCIS began the H-1B petition program, it's been quite popular, and the requests have always outnumbered the number of spots available. Officials expect the same this time around, as the applications that pour in will likely exceed the cap within a short period. USCIS says it took approximately two and a half months for the cap to be reached last year, 235 days in 2011 and 300 days in 2010. Based on recent history, immigration experts speculate that application activity will probably spike between April 1 and April 5.

If the amount of applications go above and beyond the maximum allotment, USCIS says it will do what it's done in the past, which is to implement a lottery-based system. This method will "randomly select the number of petitions required to reach the numerical limit. This mode of selection hasn't been implemented with great frequency, as the last time it was used was in April 2008.

Though these applications are used by a wide variety of people with various nationalities, they are one of the most sought after forms of visa by many people who send money to India and are native to the country, according to the Press of India. Scientists, engineers, information technology professionals and computer programmers are just a few of the professions who would likely choose an H-1B non-immigrant visa.

For more information on H-1B applications, how much they cost and how quickly they are processed, workers are asked to visit USCIS's website, where they will be directed to a web page that has in depth information all about the program.

It's little wonder that so many businesses in the U.S. today rely on H-1B applicants, as foreign workers represent a large percentage of today's workforce. According to a report from the Center for Immigration Studies, between 2000 and 2010, virtually all of the net growth in jobs went to immigrants in this 10-year period, even though immigrants represented one-third of population growth. In addition, there's been an increase of 4.5 million immigrants working in the U.S. in this decade versus a 1.1 million decline in native-born workers.

Helpful links:

H-1B application form

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