The H-1B visa allows foreign workers belonging to certain specialty occupations, to work for an employer in the USA who cannot find suitable U.S. workers for the position. In this sense, the visa functions as a work permit.
Who Can Apply?
May be eligible to apply for the H-1B non-immigrant classification.
Specialty workers and models are sponsored for this visa by their U.S. employer – i.e. the employer submits the application and pays the visa fee on behalf of the worker.
Family members of the worker (spouse and unmarried offspring under 21 years old) can accompany them to USA by applying under the H-4 non-immigrant classification.
Duration of Stay
Initially, the visa is valid for a three year period. This duration can be extended to six years – or even further, in some cases. During this period, the employer could sponsor the worker for a Green Card USA, which grants permanent resident status. After completing five years as a permanent resident, the worker can apply for citizenship.
If the employee resigns or their employment is terminated while living in USA as a non-immigrant, they can:
A maximum of 65,000 new H-1B visas can be issued every year, which indicates the demand and popularity for this visa. If the number of applications submitted exceeds this limit, a random selection process or ‘lottery’ is used to select candidates.
Over and above this limit, 20,000 H-1B visas are reserved for those who have completed their master’s degree or higher qualification from an educational institution in the USA. These candidates are also selected through a lottery system. Those who are not selected in the lottery enter the general pool, which has a cap of 65,000 visas.
Some other categories of workers (those employed at higher education institutions or affiliated non-profit organizations or government research organizations) are also exempt from this intake limit.
H-1B Visa Benefits
Eligibility Requirements for People in Specialty Occupations
The H-1B visa requirements differ for fashion models, prospective Department of Defense employees, and applicants belonging to specialty occupations.
A Specialty occupation is defined as one that:
Some fields considered as ‘specialty occupations’ include medicine, engineering, business, law, journalism, and research.
Foreign workers must meet any one the following requirements to qualify for providing services in specialty occupations:
To be eligible, the prospective employee can also:
Application Process, Fees and Processing Time
Step 1: The visa aspirant must find a U.S. sponsor who is willing to sponsor the visa application of a foreign worker, and conduct the H-1B visa process on behalf of the worker.
Step 2: The employer must apply to the Department of Labor for certification of a Labor Condition Application (LCA), to sponsor workers in specialty occupations or fashion models. The LCA is approved if the employer agrees to comply with labor requirements related to wage, working conditions, place of employment, etc.
Step 3: The employer has to submit Form I-129 (Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker), the certified LCA, supporting documents, and the form filing fees ($460 – which is the H-1B visa cost) – to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The processing time may last for 3 to 4 months, but candidates can pay an additional amount for premium processing ($1,440) to have the petition processed within 14 days.
Step 4: If this petition is approved by USCIS, the employee must complete the visa process by visiting the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country and (if required) applying for the H-1B visa to USA’s Department of State. This typically requires 2-3 days, but may vary depending on the location. Subsequently, the worker must apply for admission to USA to Customs and Border Protection.