What is H1-B Visa?

The H-1B visa (or “Specialty Occupation” visa) is one of the most popular temporary worker visas, used for those in professional or specialty occupations.

H-1B is a visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in their specialty occupations. It is required that the applicant possess specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent of work experience. A person in H-1B status must be continuously employed by an employer in order to maintain their H-1B status. If the person’s employment ends for any reason, the person will have to leave the United States, unless the person is granted a change of status or finds another employer compatible with the H-1B status.

Specialty occupation

To qualify as a specialty occupation, the position must meet any one of the following requirements:

  • A bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum entry requirement for the position;
  • The degree requirement is common to the industry in parallel positions among similar organizations or, in the alternative, the position is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree;
  • The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position; or
  • The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.

Specialty occupations may include, but are not limited to, computer systems analysts and programmers, physicians, professors, engineers, and accountants.

H-1B Visa Requirements

The H-1B visa applicant must meet the following requirements

  • Applicant should hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, or its equivalent in the specific specialty
  • The degree requirement is normal minimum requirement for the position, or for the industry.
  • Requires theoretical & practical body of knowledge obtained generally through studies at institution of higher learning (though there are work experience equivalent – 3 years of work is equal to 1 year of education)
  • Specialized fields include (not are not limited to): architecture, theology, international business management, engineering, mathematics, sciences, programming, journalism, accountancy, research, medicine/health, nursing, law, arts, social sciences.

Please read all the H-1B Requirements at USCIS website 

H-1B Cap - How many H-1B visas each year?

The H-1B cap is the total number of H-1B petitions that US Congress is allowed to approve for a fiscal year.

A total of 85,000 H-1B visas were made available each fiscal year, 65,000 for qualified foreign workers which is known as the "Regular Cap". 20,000 individuals are eligible to work under the H-1B advanced degree exemption. These individuals must have a master’s degree or higher from a public or not-for-profit university located in the United States. which is known as the "Advanced Degree Cap". There is a lottery being hold each year when the applicant filed surpasses the H-1b cap. To check the latest cap count please visit the  USCIS website.

H-1B Validity

The H-1B visa can be initially approved for a period of three years. This can later be extended for another three years up to a maximum of six years. This does not mean that you will get three years up front and an additional three years when you extend the visa. This is under optimal conditions.

Your initial visa may only be valid for one year, and then extended again for an additional two. You may do this a few times until you reach the six year maximum. Further, the extension is based on your job duties and reflects the duration you may still be required to complete your intended duties in the US. Your visa will not be extended simply because you request it, you will need to demonstrate the need for such an extension.

H-1B Visa Application Process

1: Finding an H-1B Sponsor

The H-1B visa is a work visa requiring the applicant to be sponsored by a US employer to apply. Therefore, someone who wishes to enter the US through an H-1B visa needs to gain employment from a US employer who will be willing to sponsor you into the US.

2: Employer Submits Labor Conditions Approval (LCA)

Employer is required to first obtain a Labour Certification Application from the Department of Labour. This application is an assessment of the job being offered, Employer is required to pay you an income that is according to the prevailing wage or the employer’s actual wage for the position.

3: Employer Submits Form I-129

Once the LCA approved, the employer will then file the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129. To complete this step, the employer must include the fees, education and experience evaluation and documents, training certificates, any professional membership documents, the applicant’s resume, and letter of support.

The processing time for the petition to be processed varies depending on the service center, and there is premium processing available for an additional fee.

4: Applicant Completes Application at a US Consulate

Once the petition is approved, then the last step is for the applicant to process their visa at their home country’s US embassy office or consulate. This normally takes 2 to 3 days, but again varies based on the location.

Accompanying Family

If you are successful in obtaining your H-1B visa and are married or have dependent, unmarried children under the age of 21, they may be given H4 visas. This will allow them to accompany you to the US and will be valid as long as your H-1B visa is valid.

The H-4 visa holder can stay in the U.S. as long as the H-1B is in effect. An individual with an H-4 visa can attend school, get a driver’s license, and open a bank account.

Similar Visas

The H-1B1 visa and the E-3 visa allow individuals from Chile, Singapore, and Australia to work in the U.S. under essentially the same requirements as the H-1B visa. Each year, 1,400 workers from Chile and 5,400 workers from Singapore may obtain H-1B1 visas. The E-3 visa allows 10,500 Australians to work in the U.S.

The information is provided for general informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice. Before making any decision, consult with the appropriate professionals. Please refer our Disclaimer for details.

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