One of the questions we receive the most during this time of year is, “Can I apply for an H-1B visa without a sponsor?”
The short answer is no. The reason is that an H-1B visa petition always requires an American company, called a Petitioner, to file the visa. An individual employee, or potential employee, is the Beneficiary of the case.
Who can be a sponsor?
First, the company must be big enough. If you have a friend in the United States, they cannot just register an LLC and file for you. The Fraud Detection Unit (or FDU), which is part of the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services), looks at three things:
- when the company was established,
- how many employees it has,
- and its annual revenue.
A young company without revenue can work provided it has enough employees and maybe some other factors, like funding, contracts or may be a spin off of a successful company with previously successful founders.
Can I own the company?
Yes, but you must be an employee, which means that you must be able to be fired by someone other than yourself. If you are 100% owner, you could for example have an employment agreement and a Board of Directors or Investors that have the right to terminate you.
Look for staffing companies that will petition for you and place you at a third party. This business model won some big victories in the courts in 2020 and is a viable way to obtain an H-1B.
Remember your Petitioner must register for your H-1B by March 25th at noon Eastern Time.
Also remember, although you can have more than one company that registers on your behalf, if those companies are working in concert it may be considered fraud. If one company registers for you more than once, both registrations will be thrown out.