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H-1b Visa: Immigration’s Golden Ticket

Most of us are familiar with the children's classic and cinematic wonder Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, wherein a lucky few win a tour of the famed candy maker's operation. The story opens with an announcement that only a select number of golden tickets would be available and for those lucky enough to find one, they would be assured entry. This touched off an immediate world-wide frenzy where against great odd a select group found their ticket to happiness.

Though fictional the story serves as an appropriate backdrop for the immigration equivalent, the upcoming H-1B visa lottery. On April1st only a select few applicants from a world-wide audience will receive their ticket and this time it will take more than luck.

Under section 101(a) (15) (H) of the Immigration and Nationality Act a U.S. employer may seek temporary help from skilled foreigner workers. Known as the H-1B this coveted visa for "specialty occupations," requires that the applicant have a bachelor's degree or its equivalent in an area that requires an application of theoretical and highly specialized knowledge. The H-1B allows the beneficiary to work-authorization in the United States though it is strictly limited to employment with the sponsoring employer.

Specialty occupations has been defined as requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor and include, but are not limited to, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical science, social sciences, medicine, health, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology, and the arts.

The beneficiary of an H-1B visa may live and work in the U.S. for 3 years and may extend his or her stay for another 3 years. The bearer of an H-1B may extend his or her stay even longer if a labor certification application has been filed and is pending for at least 365 days; and an additional 3 years may be obtained if the I-140 petition has been approved.

H-1B visa holders are allowed to bring their immediate family members (spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21) to the United States under the H-4 visa category as dependents. An H-4 holder may remain in U.S. as long as the H-1B is in valid nonimmigrant status. An H-4 visa holder may apply for a driver' license, attend school and open up credit accounts including a bank account but they are not allowed to work.

As much as it makes good economic sense for this country to allow the worlds brightest to enter and supplement our work force, improve our research and development and fill serious high tech shortages, Congress has severely restricted the manner and means to acquire the H-1B, thus the reason for the frenzy. The current ceiling has been set for 65,000 workers per year. In 2007 more than double the cap was received by the Immigration Service on the very first day that applications were due. The result was a selection process that emulated the lottery system.

This year on April 1st H-1B applications are due again and if you hope to be one of the lucky few who find the immigration golden ticket time is running out so prepare now and call a competent immigration attorney to increase your chances.

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