On March 1, the US immigration authorities will start collecting applications for skilled foreign worker visas, the most sought-after by Indian IT experts, kicking off the eagerly awaited H-1B visa filing season for fiscal 2023–24.
A non-immigrant visa called the H-1B allows US businesses to hire foreign nationals for specialised jobs that need for theoretical or technical competence. It is essential to the hiring of tens of thousands of workers each year from nations like China and India by technology companies.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it will accept petitions for H-1B visas, which allow holders to work and live in the US for up to six years in specialised fields like technology, engineering, and medicine, between March 1 and March 17 for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2023. It becomes possible to obtain a Green Card or permanent residency after six years.
USCIS stated, “If we receive enough registrations by March 17, we will randomly select registrations and send selection notifications via users’ myUSCIS online accounts. If we do not receive enough registrations, all registrations that were properly submitted in the initial registration period will be selected.”
According to a press statement, “We expect to notify account holders by March 31.” In the upcoming weeks, the USCIS promised to make more information available.
The annual cap for H-1B visas is 85,000, with 20,000 of those reserved for individuals with advanced degrees from US universities. The remaining 65,000 visas are distributed via a lottery system, which makes it difficult to obtain an H-1B visa.
Due to the high demand for H-1B visas, there have been calls for the programme to be changed. Many have suggested increasing the number of visas available and streamlining the application process.
The H-1B programme, according to its proponents, is essential for keeping the United States at the forefront of innovation and technology worldwide and for boosting the economy of the nation.
The US embassy and its consulates in India are focussing to expedite the visa process for Indians. Mumbai Consular Chief John Ballard said that the embassy is largely focussing to reduce the backlog for first-time B1 and B2 tourist and business travel visas.
Ballard stated, “We recently opened up 2.5 lakh B1/B2 visa appointments throughout India and we have dozens of officers, who have come from embassies around the world and Washington DC, specifically to help us to conduct interviews for first-time B1/B2 applicants”.
In order to speed up the process, he said that consulates opened on Saturday and would remain open throughout February and March. “We will be fully staffed by the end of the summer. We expect to process a record number of visas this year with these initiatives,” he added.
According to the US source, the embassy is on the verge of exceeding its pre-pandemic levels of visa processing this year. In terms of total visa adjudications, Ballard noted that “we adjudicated over 8,00,000 last year and we are almost up to our pre-pandemic numbers, which we intend to surpass in 2023.”
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