A Guide to Obtaining an H-1B Visa in the United States

Learn about what an H-1B visa is, who it's for, the requirements, and process for obtaining one to temporarily employ a foreign worker in the U.S.

What is an H-1B Visa?

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant work visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. To work in a specialty occupation field will require a higher education degree (Bachelor degree) or its equivalent. Additionally, foreign degrees and/or work experience may be found to be equivalent to a U.S. bachelor degree.

Simply put, the United States has defined “specialty occupation,” to mean any theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor. H-1B work-authorization is strictly limited to employment by the sponsoring employer. Under the visa, a U.S. company can employ a foreign worker for up to 6 years.

An H-1B visa is much easier to get than permanent residence, but because it lasts for a significant period of time that means most companies prefer this type of visa. Due to the increase in the demand of foreign employees, the United States has put a cap on these highly sought after H-1B visas.

Current immigration law allows for a total of 85,000 new H-1B visas to be made available each governmental fiscal year. This number breaks down into 65,000 new H-1B visas for overseas workers and then another 20,000 for those with advanced degrees from a U.S. academic institution.

There are several other employment visas for very specific countries and types of workers. A few are as follows: R-1 visas are for religious workers, TN visas are for Canadian and Mexican specialty workers under NAFTA, and O-1 visas for outstanding individuals in almost any field.

Requirements for obtaining an H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa application process begins six months prior to the actual start date of the visa. Employers can apply as soon as April 2, 2014 for the 2015 fiscal year cap, but cannot start working until October 1, 2014. Once the visa cap limit is reached, the USCIS will stop accepting H-1B petitions for the 2015 fiscal year and will not accept new applications until April 2015.

Because the H-1B visa is for specialty occupations, the job must meet certain criteria to qualify. All of these criteria are put in place to make sure you need someone with the specific set of skills as the person you are bringing in. For instance, the job must require a Bachelor’s degree or higher, it is common to the industry to do so or the job is so unique an individual with a degree can only perform it.

Additionally, the person the employer is applying for must satisfy certain requirements on their own, in that they have the necessary experience and training to meet the qualifications of the job. Positions that are not specialty occupations or for which a candidate lacks the qualifications/experience for an H-1B visa, may be applicable for an H-2B visa. Another category to apply if you cannot obtain an H-1B visa would be an L-1 visa which allows companies operating both in the US and abroad to transfer certain classes of employee.

When an H-1B visa is granted, the non-U.S. citizen is given a three-year period to come work, which may be extended for three additional years for a total of six years. Moreover, while in the United States on an H-1B visa you are allowed to apply for permanent residence.

H-1B visa holders can bring their spouse and children under the age of 21 to the U.S. using the H4 visa category as dependents. H4 visa holders are not eligible for work in the U.S. and may only stay for as long as the H-1B visa holder, but they may attend school, obtain a driver’s license, etc.

Other Popular Work Visas in the United States:

H-2B Visa - Temporary non-agricultural worker

H-2A Visa - Temporary agricultural worker

L-1 Visa - Intra-company Transferee

B-1 Visa - Business visitors

J-1 Visa - Exchange Visitor Program

Green Card - Permanent Residence to live and work in the U.S.

 

Need help obtaining an H-1B Work Visa?

Post a Job on UpCounsel and Connect with Quality Immigration Attorneys who can help you with obtaining an H-1B work visa today.