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Applications for Foreign Worker Visas Fewer Than Expected, Feds Extend Deadline

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is continuing to accept applications by U.S. employers for H-1B visas due to fewer applications being filed. The Los Angeles Times reports that the USCIS began accepting petitions for scientific and technology workers from other countries on April 1, as it does each year. Normally, the quota of 65,000 workers with bachelor's degrees or equivalent and 20,000 with master's-level degrees or higher is filled within the initial five-day acceptance period. However, this year, the Times says only half the available applications for bachelor's-level workers have been requested; most of the slots for master's-level candidates have been taken. The USCIS says that U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise, such as scientists, engineers, or computer programmers. The Times reports that the surprising lack of applications -- attributed to the recession and surging unemployment -- may prompt U.S. lawmakers opposed to the H-1B program to put forward protectionist measures that will ensure U.S. companies hire American workers first to fill openings normally taken by H-1B workers. Industry experts, however, worry that tightening the visa program would make it more difficult for companies to recruit the talent they need. USCIS says it will continue to accept H-1B applications and will issue a public statement when the quota has been reached.

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