H-1B Nonimmigrant Worker Visa
H1B visas are designated for certain specialty occupation foreign worker/visitors, which provide authorization to work in the United States. “Specialty occupation” is a job usually requiring a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum.
Up to 85,000 new H1B visas may be issued every year. 20,000 of those are set aside for foreign nationals holding a master’s or higher degree from U.S. universities. The remaining 65,000 visas are set aside for foreign nationals holding a bachelor’s degree. The numerical visa limitation is commonly referred to as a visa Cap or a Quota. H1B visa employees (a.k.a. Beneficiaries) are only subject to the Cap when applying for the first time H1B visa. Generally, those who currently hold H-1B visas or have held H-1B status at some point in the past six years are not subject to the H1B Cap/Quota.
Spouses and Dependents
H-1B visa beneficiaries can bring immediate family members (spouse and children under 21) to the U.S. under the H4 visa category. H4 dependents are not eligible to work but may attend school, get a driver’s license, etc.
Duration of Status
The usual duration of an H1B visa is three years, extendable to six years. In some cases, an exception to the 6 year maximum can apply. The six-year H1B time limit restarts if the H-1B holder remains outside of the U.S. for one year before reapplying for another H-1B visa.
Admittance and Validity
The USCIS starts accepting applications for new H1B visas on the first business day of April of each year. H1B visas can take status (i.e. “become active”) in October of the same year. For instance, H-1B visa applications that count against the FY 2016 cap could be submitted starting from the first business day of April, 2015 and the visa holder could change status to H1B in October of 2015. In other words, the USCIS accepts H-1B visa applications no more than 6 months in advance of the requested start date.
H-1B Nonimmigrant Worker Visa Petition
H1B visa applications can be filed via Regular Processing or Premium Processing. There is an extra fee of $1,225 for Premium Processing but the visa applications usually get processed in about 15 days. Regular processing times vary and can take anywhere from 1 month to 6 months. The usual H1B visa filing and processing is as follows:
- Signed Offer letter and Signed Acceptance of H1B Employment.
- Filing and approval of the Labor Certification Application (LCA) with the Dep. Of Labor – LCA contains information about the H1B Employer. By completing the LCA, the employer is agreeing to pay at least the prevailing wage and states that the H1B employment will not adversely affect the conditions of other workers.
- The H1B employer posts notices of intent to hire H1B workers at two conspicuous places in their principal place of business or work site for 10 days or provide notice of the filing to the collective bargaining representative.
- H1B Petition is assembled & filed with appropriate USCIS Service Center. The petition includes the required forms, fees, and evidence, such as education & experience documentation, training certificates, professional memberships, curriculum vitae, employment agreement and letter of support.
- H1B petition receipt is issued by the USCIS.
- H1B petition approved or denied by the USCIS.
- Form I-797 is issued by the USCIS.