Expats view the H1-B visa as the golden gateway to a successful life filled with brand new career opportunities and a high quality lifestyle. The visa is also particularly popular among expats and foreigners because as a dual-intent visa, it could often lead to an employment-based sponsorship for a Lawful Permanent Residence (green card).
What is an H1-B visa?
This is a visa category that allows workers seeking employment in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act section 101(a)(15)(H) to be ‘sponsored’ by their employers for work visa.
The workers seeking employment need to be able to meet certain merits and conditions required to be granted the H1-B visa for a temporary period of time.
The requirements to get an H1-B visa
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) opens up to 85,000 H1-B visa applications each year, with 65,000 reserved for those with the bachelor’s degree and the remaining cap of almost 20,000 applications for workers with a master’s degree or equivalent or above.
Workers need to meet some or all of the requirements below to be eligible for the H1-B, depending on their job description by the employer:
- Bachelor’s degree or above
The employer needs to make sure that the worker seeking the H1-B visa holds a bachelor’s degree from the US or equivalent in the field of their job occupation that they applied to in the US. In short, the workers need an accredited bachelor’s degree in the specialty occupation they are seeking a job in.
- Equivalent foreign degree
If the worker doesn’t hold a bachelor’s degree from a US accredited institution they can also apply through an accredited equivalent degree such as a degree of equivalent credit hours from edX.
The workers may hold an unrestricted state license or certification that grants them permission to work in the US in their specialty field of occupation
- Education or training
The workers may also be eligible for an H1-B visa if they hold a special training or educational diplomas that are equivalent to the completion of the degree.
Specialty occupations for an H1-B visa
The qualified positions under the H1-B visa eligibility include a long list of eligible occupations including architecture, fashion, chemistry, physics, accounting, data communications, information technology and more. Workers from India and Europe fill up almost 85% of the H1-B visa applications each year. The applications open in April each year with an open period of three months to receive applications. However, the rush of applications received each year fill up the positions in as soon as 5 days of opening.
Although all petitions received within the open period had an equal chance of being accepted, once the quota is filled the chance of being accepted is practically non-existent.
Because of the increased demand and low supply of the H1-B visas, the Trump administration has introduced new restrictions to the H1-B visa process. The USCIS has established a lottery process for the two pools of applications. While before the lottery for the master’s degree holders were conducted first, the process has now reversed. Now, the regular cap for all degree holders is conducted first which also includes the master’s degree petitions – the ones with master’s degree not selected in the regular cap will also be included in the next cap of lottery for only master’s degree owners.
While the change may seem bland, it actually enables workers with master’s degree an increased chance of getting the H1-B visas as compared to other qualifications.
The top H1-B employers that actually get most of the visas for their employees are the tech companies in the US including Amazon (2,515), Microsoft (1,479), Intel (1,230), and Google (1,213); the data stated is of the fiscal year 2017. Facebook was also granted 720 new H1-B visas for the year 2017 with an increase of 53% of H1-B visas. The USCIS stated it has received an excess of 105,000 applications for the H1-B visas in the year 2019 making a total of 190,000 applications received.
How to apply for the H1-B visa
When applying for an H1-B visa application the worker needs to be sponsored by their employer that has hired them. The employer will be able to pay for the workers visa fee and will be responsible to submit all the documents required for their employee’s H1-B visa application.
Another important step for securing a H1-B work visa is meeting the employer requirements and making sure that your employer can provide written evidence of the student’s eligibility for the job. Some other requirements for employer eligibility to apply for H1-B visa are:
- The employer must hire you on a professional job post and pay you an established wage as specified in the job contract
- The employee must be a graduate of either a US college or university or have a bachelor’s degree from a recognized institution followed by an accreditation from the SEVP
- They employee must have an equivalent training, education or experience in the specialty to that of the bachelor’s degree in that field that they are being employed for
- The employee must possess an unrestricted state license, registration, certification or passport that authorizes them to practice the specialty in the state of intended employment
- Specialties not considered under H1-B can be applied for under the H2-B specialty visa process
The prospective worker also needs to provide the necessary approved form ETA-9035 by the Labor Condition Application with the form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Also, since the H1-B visa is still the non-immigrant visa type, workers can apply for a green card while still working and living in the US to obtain lawful permanent residence of the US.
The H1-B visas are also a popular choice for students on an F1 visa seeking transition from a study visa to the work visa.
The worker is responsible to provide the employer the necessary documents of proof for the above mentioned requirements in order for them to be able to sponsor the visa process for the employer. If the employer is unable to satisfy these requirements then it is not permissible for them to sponsor the F1 student for the H1-B visa process.
H1-B visa for a business man
While it may seem as common sense for business owners to sponsor themselves for an H1-B visa, the USCIS does not grants an H1-B visa for someone sponsoring themselves. In order for business owners to get an H1-B visa, they need to have someone from the board of directors or their business executive who has a hold on the business owner’s salary, work responsibilities and tasks etc to file a petition for the H1-B visa on their behalf.
The H1-B visa planning checklist
- Worker’s resume
- A copy of the high school certificate and college transcripts
- G-28 Form with all sections filled out (if obtaining legal representation).
- Copies of all previous I-20 forms issued by the US department for visa processing
- Copies of the last three salary statements if they worked under the Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- Copies of their I-94 arrival/departure official record, F-1 visa stamp and the biographic first page of the passport
The employer is supposed to provide the following necessary documents as support:
- A copy of the original offer letter
- A copy of the signed Labor Condition Application, LCA (already submitted to the US Department of Labor, DOL)
- A support letter or job description letter describing the duties, pay and wage of the job
- A copy of the document stating clearly how long the employer intends to sponsor the employee for their H1-B visa status
The employer will not be required to sponsor the F1 visa fee during the F1 specialty training program but if it is a big corporation like Microsoft or Google then they have their own visa and immigration department attorneys that would probably sponsor the worker’s visa fee too.
The employer is require to pay an H1-B visa filing fee i.e., $460, an ACWIA fee (depending on the total number of employees) and a fraud prevention and detection fee i.e., $500. The employee can opt to expedite for the employers fee if they wish to and vice versa.
The employer could also pay Premium Processing Fee (H1-B visa fee) for the employee or employee could choose to pay this fee him/herself. Currently, the fee amount of $1,410.
The employer will have to file a petition to the US Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS with the following forms filled duly:
- I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, requesting a change of status for the F-1 student
- I-129 H Supplement
- I-129 Data Collection
If the employer wishes to expedite the premium processing fee themselves, then the employer would also need
- I-907 Request for Premium Processing (provided the employer is willing to pay the premium processing fee)
After paying all the fees through paycheck, wire transfer or direct money deposits to the Department of Homeland Security the employer is all set to hire their new employee provided that all the documents used were authentic.
With all of the methods, requirements and precautions stated for applying for an H1-B visa, it is imperative that workers carefully plan their visa application for a successful acceptance. One of the huge mistakes people make while applying for the H1-B work visa is trying to sail through the treacherous waters in the visa processing alone.
Having an expert attorney for visa and immigration services greatly increases your chances of acceptance as a worker in the US. The attorneys would make sure that your visa documents are filled and submitted correctly. They would also make sure that your employers have fulfilled all the requirements and responsibilities as a sponsor of your H1-B visa.