What is an H-1B Visa ?
An H-1B visa is a U.S. work permit that allows foreigners to work “specialty occupations” for U.S. employers. This means that your employment in the United States cannot be for just any type of work; the work performed must involve a high level of skill such as in a professional occupation. Most applicants under the H-1B work visa category are highly educated with a university degree. However, a high education is not always necessary. Some H-1B visas can be granted to applicants with little education but with lots of work experience.
How Do I Qualify for an H-1B Visa?
To qualify for an H-1B visa, you must perform services in the U.S. in a specialty occupation. You must have:
- a job offer from a U.S employer that offers you the “prevailing wage” paid in the same U.S. geographic area for similar work that you will be performing
- the correct background to the job offered
Do I Need a Degree?
The nature of the specific duties of your job offer must be so specialized and complex that knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with a bachelor’s degree, where your U.S. employer would normally require a degree for the position offered. The degree requirement would be common to the industry in parallel positions among similar organizations or the duties of the positions are so complex that only a person with a degree can perform them. It is important to note that where a degree is not usually required for an occupation, an H-2B work visa may be appropriate.
The 4 Steps to the H-1B Visa Application Procedure
There are 4 steps involved in the H-1B visa application process:
1. Prevailing Wage Determination
The employer must determine the “prevailing wage” for the complete job offered to the foreign national. This is usually done by filing a request with the state employment security agency (SESA). The wage must be higher than or within 5% of the prevailing wage in the state on the indented employment.
2. Employer’s Attestation
The employer must file a Labor Condition Attestation (LCA) with the United States Department of Labor (DOL). The LCA contains information about the nature of the occupation, the number of foreign workers that have been hired by the employer and the wages paid to the foreign workers. The LCA also contains a written promise that foreign nationals will be paid the higher of the prevailing wage or the actual wage paid to similarly situated workers; that there are no strikes or lockouts in process involving jobs to be filled by H-1B visa workers and that the employer has given notice of the filing of H-1B attestations to either the labor union (if one exists) or has posted notice of the filing in a conspicuous place for other workers to see. The DOL will certify the LCA if it has been completed properly and will provide the employer with an endorsed copy which will be used in support of the H-1B petition.
3. Employer’s Petition
The employer files the H-1B Visa Petition with the USCIS in the United States.
Once the Petition is approved, the application is filed by the foreign national to the U.S Consulate. IF YOU ARE CANADIAN, you can simply go to a U.S. port of entry with the approved petition and be admitted.
The Most Asked Questions about H-1B Visas
- What are the processing times? Processing times range from 9 to 14 weeks depending on the INS Service Center that has jurisdiction over the case.
- Who files for an H-1B visa? Although the visa will be held by an employee, it is the responsibility of the employer to file for an H-1B visa. Both an employer and and employee may wish to retain a lawyer in order to make the process as smooth as possible.
- Can I switch jobs once I have an H-1B visa? Since an H-1B visa is sponsored by an employer, if you choose to switch jobs you will need your new sponsor to file for a new H-1B visa.
- What is the duration of an H-1B status? H-1B work visas can be issued for a period of up to 6 years. However, the INS typically will issue the visa for an initial period of 3 years. Extensions must be filed after the three-year period usually requiring a new Labor Condition Attestation (LCA).
- Is there an H-1B visa quota and what do I do if it has already been reached? There is an annual quota of “new” H-1B visas that can be issued, which is also known as the H-1B Cap. If you intended to apply for an H-1B visa, and the quota has been filled, contact us for alternative solutions, such as a TN visa or L-1 visa.Find out more about alternatives to the H-1B visa and what differentiates the L-1 Visa from the H-1B.
- H-1B Visas are becoming harder to get. Where else can I work with my qualifications? Canada offers a similar program to the H-1B Visa known as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Find out more about Canada’s version of the H-1B Visa.
- Can my spouse work if I hold an H-1B Visa? Currently, the spouse of an H-1B Visa holder can work in the United States. However, the Trump administration is proposing changes to this rule. Find out more about how the 2018 proposed changes will affect you and your spouse.
- How does the H-1B Visa differ from a Green Card? An H-1B visa is not an act of citizenship.Is it possible to turn my H-1B Visa into a Green Card? Yes- this would require your U.S employer to petition on your behalf. Find out more about turning your H-1B Visa into a Green Card.
- What is the H-1B visa cap? Each year the USCIS designates 65,000 H-1B visas for the fiscal year. The master’s cap allows for an additional 20,000 applications to be approved as an advanced degree exemption. Find out more about the H-1B visa cap.
- How is the Trump Administration changing the H-1B visa? On April 18, 2017 President Trump signed the Buy American and Hire American Executive Order. This executive order aims to create increase wages and employment for Americans by enforcing stricter immigration laws. Specifically, this rule makes it harder to get H-1B visas, and revokes the ability of spouses of H-1B visa holders to work.
- Can I work a second job if I have an H-1B visa? The H-1B visa is an employer sponsored visa. As a result, you cannot hold a second job. Find out more about working a second job with an H-1B visa.
Why Seeking Professional Help for an H-1B Visa is Important
Applying for an H-1B visa requires a great deal of preparation, including assembling the proper paperwork, following the proper procedures and knowing where to file and when. H-1B visas are also subject to annual quotas, so its essential that your application is submitted on time. With so many specific and timely requirements to fulfill, successful H-1B applications are often achieved with the help of a legal expert.
Why Hire Us to Help You With Your H-1B Visa Application?
We have over 20 years of experience in handling H-1B visa applications, and we know what steps and details that immigration officers considering when deciding whether to approve or deny an application bid. We have helped thousands individuals enter the U.S. with H-1B visas, and we can help you too!