The H1B visa is a temporary or non-immigrant “specialty occupation” US visa, which means the holder is employed in a position that requires specialized skills or knowledge.
Jobs that suit the H1B visa typically need a university degree or equivalent (which can mean 3 years’ work experience for each year that would normally be spent at university). The position should be one that would normally require that level of experience.
The visa is valid for three years, with one possible additional three-year extension, making six years’ maximum stay in total.
Any H1B visa application must be sponsored by a valid company. So the individual must have an offer of work, education, or internship prior to submitting the application.
USCIS normally issue a maximum of 65,000 regular H1B visas each year, with some exceptions:
Because of the strict limits, visas are granted on a lottery basis. This means there is no guarantee that, even if you qualify, you will be awarded your H1B. (Of course, if you do not apply, you cannot win the lottery.)
Be aware that 236,000 petitions for H1B visas were submitted in the 2016 window, and the lottery allocation was completed on April 9, 2016. That means there were 2.7 applications for each visa granted.
We recommend you speak to one of our attorneys for advice on the cap.
Because of the limited number of visas issued, there is a specific window for applications, which usually starts on April 1st for the fiscal year starting October 1st of the following year. So you can apply from April 1st, 2017 for entry in the year starting October 1st, 2018.
may include (but are not limited to) the following. If your area of work is not in one of the fields of work listed below, please contact us and we will be happy to advise.
A further condition to H1B applications is that the employer must assure that it will pay the visa holder a comparable wage to other workers who have similar qualifications. This is known as the prevailing wage.
Determining the prevailing wage can be difficult, and is one of the most common areas where an application can be held up, so you are advised to get advice from an attorney as early as possible in the process.
Online Visas’ founder Jon Velie gives some tips on your H1B strategy, including credentialing, prevailing wage, and the lottery.
Here are the steps involved in applying for your H1-B visa:
People who may be eligible for the H1-B may also be eligible for:
If considering a green card application, note that there is a rule that dictates that, if a green card application is submitted prior to the end of the 5th year on H1-B, the H1-B holder can continue to extend the H1-B in one-year increments.
For those who gain extraordinary skills during their stay, they may become suitable for the EB1-1 (exceptional ability).
If a person has access to sufficient funds, they may consider applying for the EB-5 “Investor Green Card”, however note that the investment must be the applicant’s own money and may not be borrowed.
Q: Can I stay in the US on an H1B visa and be self-employed?
A: No You cannot be self-employed under an H-1B visa. You must be employed by a US-based sponsoring company.
Q: Can my degree be issued by any university?
A: Yes, in principle, however you may need to have your credentials evaluated by an approved organization. We can advise and help with this.
Q: What is credential evaluation?
A: This is simply the process of assessing to what extent education or work experience gained outside the United States is equivalent to similar experience in the US. Foreign education may be evaluated by evaluators outside the US, but work experience gained in other countries must be supported with documentation.
Q: Is there a minimum length of degree study?
A: To qualify for the H1B, you typically need minimum four years of study on a degree course. If you have completed more than one degree, it may be possible to combine the time spent on multiple degree-level courses. You may also use a combination of university study plus progressive work experience.
Q: What does “progressive” experience mean?
A: The USCIS has not specified exactly what is meant by “progressive” but you can take it to mean that your work must have required continual advancement over time.
Q: I do not have a degree. Can I still qualify for an H1B visa?
A: Yes. If you have relevant work experience in you speciality field, you may qualify with equivalent experience. You will normally need three years’ work experience per one year of degree study, so typically twelve years’ minimum.
Q: Can I bring my family with me to the United States?
A: Yes, your immediate family (i.e. spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21) may accompany you to the US under an H4 visa. They will be permitted to study but not work in the United States.
Q: Is it possible to stay longer than 6 years on an H1B visa?
A: No, the H1B itself is strictly limited to the initial 3 years plus possible 3-year extension. However you may be able to stay longer if you apply for permanent residency (Green Card) while holding an H-1B visa. But, it is important you apply for the Green Card by the end of year 2 of your extension.