H-1B Visa: Everything You Need to Know
An H-1B visa allows a foreign worker in a specialized field to emigrate and work in the United States temporarily.9 min read
Specialized foreign nationals can work in the U.S. with an H-1B visa. Of the 483,927 applications received for the year 2023, 127,600 were selected as possible candidates. There’s an annual cap of 65,000 visas, with 20,000 extra visas dedicated to workers with a Master’s degree. Workers must have a Bachelor’s degree or meet other requirements depending on the job.
This guide acts as a hub and an entry point to learn more about H-1B visas. You can read further by clicking the links included in each section.
What are the advantages of an H-1B visa?
One of the main H1B visa benefits is that holders can legally study and work for employers. Beneficiaries of the H1B visa can also travel in and outside of the United States.
H1B workers also enjoy similar advantages to US-based employees, including:
- Employment bonuses
- Retirement and savings plans
- Insurance plans (health, life, disability, etc.)
- Other forms of compensations like stock options
H-1B Visa Eligibility
US employers can only sponsor foreign nationals for specialized positions. Visa applicants must meet H1B eligibility standards to work in the United States. This includes providing an official job offer from a US employer. The applicant must also provide proof of qualification, such as a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, or other professional certification.
H1B visa eligibility also requires the following from a US employer:
- The employer shows the need for the temporary position.
- The employer demonstrates that there’s a lack of qualified workers.
- The employer pays the H1B worker a fair wage.
- If an employer ends the employment, they must pay for the employee to return home.
What is H-1B Visa Eligibility Dropbox?
The dropbox process refers to the stamping of a passport once an applicant attends a visa interview. H1B dropbox eligibility requires that the applicant bring the interview confirmation and a fee, job offer, H1B approval notice, Form DS-160, Form I-797, biometric results, job offer, resume, and any other necessary proof such as transcripts or professional certifications.
H-1B Visa Requirements
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) establishes certain H1B visa requirements. Applicants and employers must follow a very strict set of rules to qualify. Reviewing the requirements below prepares applicants to submit a successful visa application.
Requirements for Employers
Employers must meet the following H1B visa employer requirements:
- US employers will pay H1B workers a wage that is comparable to that of their US counterparts.
- US employers will follow local, state, and federal employment laws. Employers must not hire during a strike.
- US employers must notify current employees that a H1B worker will join the team.
Requirements for Employees
Following the H1B visa rules for employees is simple. First, H1B workers must provide educational proof for the specialized position. This includes a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Employees must also present a valid job offer.
H-1B Visa Cap
There are a limited number of H1B visas available each year in the United States.
- Regular cap: The USCIS issues up to 85,000 visas. The H1B visa cap for a regular group is 65,000.
- Master cap - The USCIS dedicates the remaining 20,000 for applicants with graduate degrees.
Exemptions to the H-1B Visa Cap
Universities, government research organizations, and educational nonprofits are H1B cap exempt. This means that these organizations do not need to adhere to the 85,000 visa limit and can submit applications at any point in the year.
H-1B Cap exempt employers
Visit this website to find out if an employer is cap-exempt. When in doubt, it’s best to reach out to the USCIS to confirm if an organization falls within the 85,000 annual visa limit. Applicants can then adjust their applications accordingly.
Required documents for H-1B
Employers must provide different required documents during the various stages of the H1B process. Applicants should review the documents required for H1B visas for the best chance of submitting a successful application.
|Be prepared to file the following documents for H1B visas:|
Applicants have their own set of required documents to bring to a visa interview.
|Applicants should be prepared to submit the following documents during a visa interview:|
H-1B Petition Filing Process
Applicants should first submit Form G-28 with the United States Department of Homeland Security to begin the H1B petition filing process. Afterwards, employers will file Form ETA-9035 using the Department of State’s iCert Portal System. Once Homeland Security approves Form ETA-9035, employers can pay the appropriate fees and file required documents.
H-1B Request for Evidence (RFE)
The USCIS issues RFEs to provide applicants with an opportunity to fill in missing gaps instead of rejecting the submission outright. While this will typically expand the processing past the typical 4 to 8 months, an H1B RFE provides a second chance at being successful in obtaining the visa.
The H-1B visa is valid for 3 years upon initial approval, or 6 years with a visa extension. It takes 15 days to process an H1B extension. Applicants can apply for an H1B visa transfer, which allows them to change employers after initial approval.
A concurrent H1B visa allows foreign national workers to hold two positions. Like an H1B visa, an employer must submit a concurrent H1B visa on behalf of the applicant, demonstrating why the organization or business needs an H1B worker instead of employing a US worker.
Labor Condition Application (LCA)
The employer submits the labor condition application for H1B, otherwise known as Form ETA-9035, using the Department of State’s iCert Portal System. This form declares the employer will pay the H1B worker a fair wage, equivalent to that of a US counterpart. This form also requires the employer provide fair working conditions under local, state, and federal law.
How long can I stay in the US with an H-1B visa?
The H-1B visa allows workers to stay in the United States for 3 years. Applicants can apply for an additional 3 years with an H1-B visa extension. It takes 15 days to process an extension. To stay longer, applicants should apply to other avenues like the student visa or green card.
Family of H-1B Visa Holders
There are opportunities for spouses and unmarried children below the age of 21 to accompany H1B visa holders. The H1B to H4 process starts when the H-1B nonimmigrant submits Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization) after seeking permanent resident status on an employment basis.
One of the most important reasons that applicants must be thorough when submitting their application is because of volume. According to H1B statistics, the USCIS received over 480,000 applications for the 2023 working year and rejected over 80% of applications.
Overall, H1B workers only account for 0.05% of the United States labor force. As demand for foreign nationals increases, competition will increase. This is why it’s important to understand all application requirements. When in doubt, contact a legal professional for advice and application support.
Processing Time for an H-1B Visa
The H1B visa processing time for regular applications is 4 to 8 months. However, applicants can pay an additional fee to have their application reviewed in 15 days. The renewal period can be lengthy, taking up to 8 months, whereas the H1B transfer processing time is a little shorter, taking 1 to 4 months.
When is the best time to submit the H-1B application to the USCIS?
Employers should submit H1B visa applications in April to be eligible for the new fiscal year starting in October, which is when a new batch of visas becomes available. While this is typically the best time to submit, the H1B approval time still remains 4 and 8 months.
When a US employer wishes to hire a foreign national, they will apply for an H1B visa sponsorship on behalf of the worker. Note that the H1B visa typically requires the employer to document applications and pay any necessary fees, except in the case where the worker would like to expedite processing times.
Disqualified and Willful Violator Employers
The USCIS can deny employers when they cannot show proof of tax returns, a tax identification number, or up-to-date financial records. The USCIS will reject an employer if they attempt to hire a worker who differs from the initial application.
Visit the USCIS’ list of H-1B debarred and disqualified employers who have currently violated the program.
H-1B Premium Processing
Employees can pay $2,500 for H1B premium processing, which expedites application wait times to 15 days instead of the regular 4 to 8 month timeline. This is an optional expense that the employee pays.
Total Costs of an H1B Visa
There are several H1B visa costs associated with the application. The employer pays for all fees, except the premium processing fee, which is optional. Otherwise, the employer must pay for the registration fee, the Public Law 114-113 fee, the basic filing fee, the USCIS Anti-Fraud Fee, the ACWIA Education and Training fee, and the attorney fee, which can vary.
What Is the H1B Lottery?
Each year, the USCIS conducts the H1B visa lottery, which is a random selection to determine who will enter the United States on this type of visa. The United States only accepts applicants through this process once annually, so it’s important to ensure all aspects of an application are correct.
How to See My H1B Status Updates?
Check the USCIS website to check your H1B visa status. Applicants should keep a receipt or case number after applying to enter the H1B visa status tracking system. This is the easiest way to get real time H1B status updates. Applicants can log in through any computer.
What is H1B Visa Stamping?
H1B visa stamping involves getting a stamp on the applicant’s passport after successfully attending the interview. This is a mandatory step to work in the United States as a foreign worker. It shows that the government supports the application.
Can I start a company under H-1B?
Yes. Individuals that hold a valid H1B visa may start a company. This process is not always easy, and it’s a good practice to consult a legal expert before pursuing entrepreneurship.
How to Extend the H1B Visa?
Employers must file Form I-129 and pay additional fees to extend an H1B worker’s visa past the regularly allotted 3 years. It takes approximately 15 days to process an extension. If you’re wondering how many times can H1B be extended, click here for more information.
How many times can H-1B be extended?
Employers can only apply for one 3-year extension. Afterwards, some H1B visa holders are eligible to extend their stay in 1-year increments if they file for a Labor Certification Application.
Employers must file for an H1B amendment when there are any significant changes to the H1B worker’s employment. The employer can get an amendment by filing Form I-129, which notifies the USCIS of employment changes.
What happens if you end your H-1B Employment?
If an H1B worker or employer ends a contract, then the visa holder has 60 days to find a new sponsor, or they must leave the United States. Without a valid H1B visa, the foreign national no longer holds legal status in the country.
Do I have to apply for a second H1B visa if I leave my company?
Yes, the new employer will have to apply on behalf of the worker for a second H1B visa. When an H1B visa holder ends employment with one company, they no longer hold legal status in the United States.
How Long Can I Stay in the US with an H1B Visa?
A visa H1B allows individuals to work in the United States for 3 years. Employers can apply for an extension, allowing the employee to stay an additional 3 years.
If a worker wishes to stay longer than 6 years, the applicant must apply for an extension on the basis of obtaining a student visa or employment-based green card. In addition, the applicant must have a Labor Certification Application. When approved, the worker can stay in the US for 1-year increments to allow the USCIS to make a decision on the other applications.
How should I explain H-1B status to a prospective employer?
When seeking an H1B visa status, highlight your qualifications to a prospective employer. Discuss why you are the best candidate for the role and why it’s important for the US company to hire a foreign worker over an US worker.
Can I get a green card after 3 years of H-1B?
Individuals can move from an H1B visa to a green card. The H1B visa green card process can be challenging, as the green card is one of the most sought after visas for people immigrating to the United States.
Can H1B visa holders' spouses work in the US? How?
It’s possible for H1B visa holder’s spouses to work in the United States. Spouses must apply for an employment authorization document to get an H-4 visa.
How does a company sponsor H1B visas?
To offer jobs with H1B visa sponsorship, US employers must show proof of tax returns, a tax identification number, and valid financial records. Then, the employer must obtain a Labor Condition Application prior to submitting an H1B application.
What to do if your H1B visa is denied?
Have your H1B denied? An employer can file a new Form I-129 or AAO appeal if an H1B is denied.
Get Help Applying for an H-1B Visa
If you are a company looking to file a petition for an H-1B visa for a future employee, you need help from an UpCounsel attorney. UpCounsel works to connect clients with experienced attorneys who offer great prices. We have lawyers that specialize in immigration law and can help you file your H-1B petition. Sign-up with UpCounsel today.