S. Korea Seeks to Qudruple US H-1B Visa Quota for Skilled Professionals

South Korea will begin negotiations next year to get Washington to boost the quota of nonimmigrant H-1B visas for skilled professionals, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan announced Monday.

Currently, the US grants H-1B visas to about 3,500 Koreans in skilled professions like IT, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, biotechnology, medicine, health, law, accounting and the arts. This number is too small to meet the demand for Korean skilled workers due to a steady rise in the number of Korean nationals studying and seeking jobs in the US.

Seoul “will push for an expansion of hiring professional workers in the U.S. as one of its priorities for diplomacy with the U.S. next year,” wrote Kim in a Twitter post.

“With the target of securing 15,000 visas for professionals, the government will negotiate hard with the U.S. administration and Congress,” Kim added.

The negotiations will be based on the US-S. Korea free-trade agreement which went into effect at the beginning of this year. The FTA is expected to encourage more S. Koreans to seek skilled jobs in the US.

The US H-1B visa program allows employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in specialty occupations where demand is not being met by the domestic labor pool. While increasing the inflow of foreign workers is politically unpopular in a time of 8.1% unemployment, most of the US jobless rate is attributable to unskilled manufacturing workers while employers continue to complain about a shortage of skilled workers in technical professions.