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Non-American nerds jam immigration pleading for right to live in the US

H-1B annual quota smashed in seven days – now hopefuls will go through lottery process

Just one week after announcing it is once again accepting H-1B visa applications, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has slammed the floodgates shut.

H-1B visas are like Willy Wonka's golden tickets: they are granted to skilled foreigners – such as software engineers and other techies – allowing them to live and work in America for a couple of years, or possibly longer.

The USCIS hands out 65,000 of these visas a year, plus 20,000 reserved for people with a masters-level degree or higher. On Wednesday, April 1, it opened the door to new H-1B hopefuls, and just seven days later closed said door after receiving more applications than its annual cap.

To select this year's winners from the enormous pile of wannabes, USCIS will hold a pair of lotteries. The first drawing will select the 20,000 advanced degree holders, with the remainder of the applicants tossed into a second lottery to decide the 65,000 foreign nationals who will receive a standard H-1B visa.

USCIS said anyone renewing or updating some part of their H-1B visa does not need to go through the lottery system. This means H-1B holders can ask to move to a new job, or extend their stay, without having to go through the immigration raffle system.

The H-1B program is essential to Silicon Valley, where technology giants have advocated expanding the program to allow more and more skilled foreign workers into the country for engineering, software development, and research roles.

In 2013, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg demanded an H-1B overhaul, saying "to lead the world in this new economy, we need the most talented and hardest-working people." ®

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