March 2022 Update: the US has received enough applications to meet the federally mandated 65,000 H-1B visa cap for the fiscal year 2022. Learn more about the 2022 H-1B Visa cap.
Effective on March 9, 2021, a new H-1B selection process will be active which was modified to prioritize wages to protect the economic interests of US workers while ensuring that most highly skilled foreign workers benefit from the temporary employment program.
November 23, 2020 Update: US officials have announced a new policy that will help spouses of H-1B and L-1 visa holders who are looking to work in the US.
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
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 an employee may wish to retain a lawyer in order to make the process as smooth as possible.
H-1B Visa Period of Stay
Processing times range from 9 to 14 weeks depending on the INS Service Center that has jurisdiction over the case.
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).
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.
In most cases you may need:
- US bachelors or higher degree
- A foreign degree that’s equivalent
- Unrestricted state license, registration, or certification
- OR education, training, or experience within that specialty field
Steps to an H-1B Visa
To successfully start your H-1B work visa application, you will need to be sponsored by a US employer to apply.
Once a US company has hired you, the employer will need to complete an LCA which stands for Labor Conditions Approval agreeing that the employee will receive equal or greater than the prevailing wage for the position in that field.
Once the LCA has been approved, the employer will then file the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129.
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 US port of entry with the approved petition and be admitted.
Labor Condition Application (LCA)
Prospective specialty occupations must obtain a certification of an LCA from the DOL. This application includes certain attestations, a violation of which can result in fines, bars on sponsoring nonimmigrant or immigrant petitions, and other sanctions to the employer/agent.
The application requires the employer/agent to attest that it will comply with the following labor requirements:
- The employer/agent will pay the H-1B worker a wage which is no less than the wage paid to similarly qualified workers or, if greater, the prevailing wage for the position in the geographic area in which the H-1B worker will be working
- The employer/agent will provide working conditions that will not adversely affect other similarly employed workers
- At the time of the labor condition application, there is no strike or lockout at the place of employment
- Notice of the filing of the labor condition application with the DOL has been given to the union bargaining representative or has been posted at the place of employment
H-1B Visa to Green Card
The Most Asked Questions about H-1B Visas
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.
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!