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USA's H-1B skilled worker visa applications open

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Fancy a few years working in the US of A? If you possess a Bachelor's degree in computing or engineering, can prove skills and experience in the field and have found a stateside employer who wants your talents, get typing, dear reader, because for the next couple of days the USA is taking applications for the H-1B visa.

The H-1B visa enables employers to bring skilled workers to the USA for up to six years. Technology firms generally approve of the visa, which helps them to address skills shortages. The US Department of Labor even mentions computer programmers as the kind of workers sought under the program.

Workers prize the H1-B because, while not officially a route to permanent residence, an employer is willing to sponsor you for an H-1B may well also be willing to sponsor a future green card application if you decide to stay in the USA. An employer willing to say you've become an important cog in their wheel on an H-1B carries a bit of weight during that process.

The bad news? The USA will only offer 65,000 H-1Bs for financial year 2014 (plus 20,000 for those with Masters degrees), but expects to receive a great many more applications before the cutoff date of April 5th. US Citizenship and Immigration Services, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, is therefore warning that a lottery will likely be needed to determine which applications it will process and therefore which employers have H-1B places to offer.

Paying $US1,225 will see H-1B petitions, as the applications are formally known, afforded speedy Premium Processing. That fee is on top of the base $325 filing fee and $500 to $2000 employers pay to have your petition processed.

If you do score an H-1B, don't expect the red carpet to await at your new employer. US unemployment fell to 7.7 per cent in February, leaving immigration schemes for foreign workers controversial even if industries facing skills shortages enjoy the annual influx of talent schemes like the H-1B afford.

If you don't score the visa this year, you can always spend the year between now and the next round of H-1B applications making yourself as physically attractive as possible to take advantage of the special H-1B category for Fashion Models “of distinguished merit and ability.” A year should be plenty of time for the average Reg reader to pull that off? ®

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