H1B Visa Processing Times
With more and more people applying for the H1B visa every year, it’s more important than ever to understand the application structure of these visas and processing times. Here’s a quick overview of H1B processing times.
|H1B Visa case||Processing time|
|H1B regular processing time||4 to 8 months|
|H1B premium processing time||15 days|
|H1B renewal processing time||Up to 8 months|
|H1B transfer processing time||1 to 4 months|
|H1B extension processing time||Dependent on demand|
In this article, we’ve outlined the application process and wait times, dependent on the circumstances that you may face when dealing with this type of visa. For more in-depth information, keep reading.
Processing Time by Service Center
Although current USCIS H1B visa processing times are between 4 to 8 months, these wait times can vary depending on the service center you choose to file the H1B visa at.
Here’s the normal processing time you’ll generally find with each service center:
- Vermont Service Center: 2 to 4 months
- Texas Service Center: 1 to 3 months
- California Service Center: 4 to 6 months
How Are H1B Visas Processed?
The USCIS processes H1B visas using a lottery system. This system doesn’t favor any single person, completely randomly by choice (see our guide for H1B Visa Lottery).
- The USCIS issues a maximum of 65,000 H1B visas per year. They select 20,000 people with graduate degrees, with the remaining 45,000 chosen as part of the cap.
- The USCIS returns applications that aren’t selected to the employer, along with the fee.
- Employers are not allowed to submit multiple petitions for the same employee. If an employer does this, they will not receive any excess fee back.
- Regardless, here’s what you can expect concerning how to process H1B visas, relative to H1B processing times.
Step 1: File Form G-28
To give authorization for a lawyer to represent their client, the employer must file Form G-28 with the United States Department of Homeland Security before Citizenship and Immigration Services. This allows an H1B attorney to act on behalf of their client in any immigration cases regarding the Department.
Step 2: Submit Form ETA-9035 (Labor Condition Application)
Employers must then file Form ETA-9035 (Labour Condition Application) via the Department of State’s iCert Portal System.
This form requires employers to guarantee they will pay foreign nationals a wage equal to similar employees in the company, and that they provide safe working conditions for all their personnel.
Step 3: Receive approval for the Labor Condition Application
Before filing Form I-129, the employer must acquire clearance of ETA-9035 from the Department of Labor.
Step 4: File Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker)
After the Department of Labor gives their greenlight to Form ETA-9035, employers must promptly submit the required fees and documents for H1B applications to the USCIS service center.
- Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker)
- Proof of qualifications and training
- Proof of education
- Any filing fee
- Other documentation required
Make sure to file Form I-129 correctly and pay close attention to the following pages.
- Pages 11 to 12: It’s crucial to complete the H Classification supplement.
- Pages 17 to 19: Make sure to complete the Filing Fee supplement and the H-1B Data Collection section.
Step 5: H-1B Premium Processing (form I-907)
By submitting Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service) with the requisite fee, you can expedite your Forms I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Work) and Form I-140 (Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers). This investment of time and money will pay off in the form of rapid processing times.
For ambitious applicants (i.e., those looking to work two or more jobs), there’s also the option of a concurrent H1B visa.
Cap-Exempt vs Cap-Subject Processing Times
Being ‘cap-exempt’ means being exempt from the annual cap on H1B visas.
One benefit to filing a petition to be exempt from the H1B cap is the shorter H1B visa processing times. Universities, non-profit research organizations, and government research organizations are exempt from the cap.
Another benefit is that cap-exempt petitions do not have to adhere to the deadline of April 1 to file an application.
A cap-exempt processing time can generally take 6 months. However, applicants have the option of paying for premium processing, which reduces the decision-making process to 15 calendar days.
For those transferring from one cap-exempt position to another, everything stays the same, and there are no additional H1B processing times.
However, individuals transferring from a cap-exempt position to a cap-subject one will, as you would expect, be subject to the cap. The USCIS will not file the application until April 1 and the start date will not commence until October 1. The result of this change: a longer processing time.
When Should You Start the H1B Process?
The USCIS cannot process applications prior to 6 months before the start date of the position due to regulations.
Before filing the petition, plan in advance as much as possible. Consider paying the premium processing fee of $2,500 if you need a quicker decision.
It can take 3 to 4 months to prepare an H1B application, and then an additional 6 months to process the petition. This is why the premium processing option is beneficial—applicants can acquire results within 15 calendar days.
H1B Regular Processing Time (cap-subject)
The regular H1B visa processing time for cap-subject petitions is 4 to 8 months. However, it may be longer depending on the service center and current demand.
Let’s delve into processing times for cap-subject petitions in more detail.
How long does the USCIS take for H1B regular processing?
If there are no complexities involved with the case, you should expect processing times to follow the usual guideline of 4 to 8 months.
However, an application will take significantly longer when you receive a Request for Evidence (RFE). Although getting an RFE delays initial case processing times, it can be good news, as it means the USCIS is giving you the opportunity to fill in any missing gaps for your submission rather than outright sending a rejection.
When your employer receives an RFE, they’re also provided with a timeline to respond, which intends to minimize H1B processing times.
Typically, you’ll receive an RFE for one or more of the following reasons:
- An incomplete job application
- Lack of qualifications for the job
- Lack of proof that the employer is supervising the applicant or paying their salary
How to file an H1B petition in regular processing
To begin the regular filing process, an employer will first need to submit Form I-129 to the USCIS, along with any filing fees.
The employer must pay the following fees.
|Filing fees for Form I-129||$460|
|The American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 (ACWIA) Fee||
|Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee||$500 per foreign worker|
|The Public Law Fee||
Note: Applicable to employers that have more than 50 employees, with 50% of them on H-1B visas.
|Premium Processing Fees||
Note: This is the only fee paid by the applicant and not the employer.
Employers will also need to submit a number of supporting documents, including:
- An employment offer letter
- Current H-1B visa
- Social security card
- Form I-797
- Form I-94
- Degree or educational certificates
- Pay stubs
- Tax returns
- Applicable federal or state professional licenses
Regular processing does not allow employers to submit Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service).
H1B Premium Processing Time
Here’s what you need to know about the timelines and benefits of premium processing.
How long does the USCIS take for H1B premium processing?
If the employee pays the $2,500 premium processing fee, they can speed up the decision-making process to 15 calendar days. This is the only fee that the foreign worker pays.
How to file an H1B petition in premium processing
Filing a petition under premium processing requires the same fees and documents from the employer.
Although applicants can expect to receive a decision within 15 calendar days, recent findings show that current H1B premium processing times average 10 days.
If the USCIS does not provide a response within 15 calendar days, then they will refund the fee and continue to process the application at an expedited rate.
How to Upgrade from Regular to Premium Processing
Employers can upgrade to premium processing when they first apply or after receiving a receipt notice.
H1B Renewal Processing Time
After a foreign worker completes a stay of 6 years in the United States, which includes the 3-year extension, they may be eligible to renew their H1B visa status. The best part? Renewals are not cap-subject.
The H1B renewal processing time can take up to 8 months to complete. Applicants do have the option to pay for premium processing, which will yield a decision in 15 calendar days.
H1B Transfer Premium Processing Time
The H1B transfer processing time is approximately 1 to 4 months. However, wait times can vary based on the processing center and method.
Note that incomplete applications or ones with errors can delay decision-making. It’s best to ensure your H1B visa application is complete at the time of submission. Consider hiring an H1B visa attorney to ensure the highest chances of success for your application.
H1B Extension Processing Time
The H-1B visa offers a maximum length of 6 years.
- Your first authorization period is 3 years, and you can request an extension for another 3 years after that. On average, the average H1B extension processing time is 15 days.
- Extension H1B processing times can, however, fluctuate depending on visa filing methods.
- Under regular processing, then the time varies based on the service center and current demand.
- Under premium processing, then employers and employees should receive a response within 15 calendar days.
- Applicants can expect a shorter processing period for extensions for initial H1B visa applications. This is especially true when the details of employment do not change.
What Happens After the USCIS Processes the H1B Visa?
Let’s discuss what steps you and your employer must take after H1B visa application approval.
Receipt of Approval
Congratulations! The USCIS has approved your visa application. Successful applicants will receive a receipt number and receipt notice from the USCIS.
Stamping the H1B Visa
The H1B visa stamping process involves attending a visa interview to stamp your passport. Prior to stamping, the applicant will need to fulfill some requirements.
The applicant will need to bring the following:
- Form DS-160 (Visa Application Form)
- Confirmation of a scheduled H1B interview
- Biometrics results
- Interview fee
- Job offer
- Current resume
- Business documents
- Previous H1B approval notice
- Form I-797
- Official transcripts
- Degrees, certificates, or evidence of training
- Professional licenses
In addition, if you’re bringing your spouse or unmarried child under 21, then they’ll need to apply for the H-4 visa and bring the following information to the interview:
- Visa fee receipt
- Form I-797
- Copy of applicant’s visa
- Copy of marriage or birth certificate
- Form I-129
The stamping process is commonly referred to as the dropbox process. Check out more information on H1B dropbox eligibility.
How to Check H1B Processing Times on the USCIS Website
Here’s how to check H1B processing times on the USCIS website so you can stay in the know throughout the entire application process.
Identify your processing center using the H1B receipt number
The first three letters on your receipt will indicate the location name of the service center where you filed your H1B visa petition. For example:
- EAC or VSC: Vermont Service Center
- LIN or NSC: Nebraska Service Center
- SRC or TSC: Texas Service Center
- WAC or CSC: California Service Center
- NBC: National Benefits Center
- MSC: Missouri Service Center
- IOE: USCIS Electronic Immigration System
- YSC: Potomac Service Center
Check the H1B processing time on the USCIS website
Here’s a step-by-step on checking processing times.
- Navigate to the USCIS homepage and click “Tools”.
- Select “Case Status Online”.
- Use the “Case Status Online” tool to track the status of your H1B visa application.
USCIS H1B processing times displayed
When you check your case through the USCIS homepage, you can view any processing time delays.
If you have a case number, you can create an account to see personalized case completion times.
Check the history of average processing times in the past few years at USCIS H1B processing centers
To check the history of average processing times, navigate to the Historical National Median Processing Time (in Months) for All USCIS Offices for Select Forms By Fiscal Year page.
Here are some common statistics to keep in mind as part of the H1B petition process.
|Form||Form Description||FY 2020||FY 2021||FY 2022||FY 2023|
|I-129||Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker||0.4||0.3||0.3||0.3|
|I-129||Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker||2.3||1.8||2.3||3.9|
|I-129F||Petition for Alien Fiance||4.6||8.0||12.1||14.5|
Need Help with H1B Visa Processing Times?
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UpCounsel also provides comprehensive information on other types of visas and processes, such as the H1B to green card process and answers questions such as ‘Can I start a business on H1B?’.
FAQs about H1B Visa Processing Times
Can H-1B premium processing take more than 15 days?
The purpose of premium processing is a shorter processing time. If premium processing takes longer than 15 days, then the USCIS will refund your fee and expedite your H1B petition.
How many H-1B applications were filed for 2023?
There were 483,927 H1B registrations for 2023. This is the highest number of registrations that the USCIS has seen in the history of the program.
Is the H1B lottery done for 2023?
Yes. The USCIS announced results on March 25, 2022.
Does premium processing of H1B increase your visa chances?
No, premium processing will not increase your chances of obtaining an H1B visa. However, it will provide you with a decision within 15 calendar days.
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