H-1B Visa: Must-Know Info
The United States is a preferred destination for professionals looking to obtain gainful employment and enjoy an excellent life quality.
However, to become a reality, you must gain specific permissions and documentation to gain employment in the U.S. One of these documents is a work visa. The H-1B visa is one type of work visa non-citizens can apply for.
The H-1B Visa
The H-1B visa is a popular U.S. federal employment visa that some applicants consider to be rather complex to apply for. Some businesses find the process and the caps on the number of visas too restrictive. In contrast, certain labour organizations argue that the H-1B takes jobs from U.S. citizens and lowers applicable wages.
While the truth likely lies somewhere between the two extremes, one thing is clear: H-1B visa processes and rules are not easy to navigate.
What Is The H-1B Visa?
The H-1B visa allows employers in the U.S. to hire foreign nationals when employers cannot find eligible and willing citizens to fill open positions.
Once this visa is issued to a foreign national, they can only work for the employer that made the visa application. Working for any other employer will cause revocation of the visa.
This visa type was approved in 1990 and does not provide a direct path for citizenship.
According to the Department of Labor’s website, the H-1B visa allows an employer to find suitable foreign workers when domestic hiring is impossible.
- Applicants must be graduate-level workers with technical or theoretical expertise in specialized fields such as finance, accounting, engineering, medicine, mathematics, IT, architecture, science, etc.
- The job must be so complex that only a degree holder can perform it
- Applicants must come from difficult-to-master fields.
Aside from an employer meeting the above criteria, a worker must meet additional stipulations. These include:
- Prior completion of a bachelor’s or higher-level degree from an accredited college or university in the U.S.
- A bachelor’s degree or higher from an institution outside the U.S. that offers a comparable degree to those provided in the U.S.
- State-level certification, licensure, or registration authorizing one to practice their speciality occupation fully.
- Possessing the requisite education, training, or experience in the speciality that can be equated to a completed degree
Non-specialized occupations—or ones where a candidate lacks the necessary training or experience—can be filled using an H-2B visa. Applicants that do not qualify for the visa can also try to obtain an L-1 visa. The L-1B is a visa for companies operating in the U.S. that also have a presence abroad. These companies can use it to bring foreign employees to work in the U.S.
This visa has an applicable annual cap. Immigration laws allow 65,000 new visas every fiscal year. An additional 20,000visas are allocated for professionals with a master’s degree acquired from an American institution.
Employers are also required to make the applications six months before the employee’s start date.
H-1Bvisa applicants are then entered into a lottery system and those who are randomly picked proceed to further evaluation.
Workers within the six-year H-1Bvisa period are exempt from the cap, as are workers in the higher education sector, government, and non-profit research fields.
An employer can also apply for an extension for their worker, provided the employee has been in status in the last six years and hasn’t exceeded their minimum duration of the residency.
There are talks of eliminating the lottery system and prioritizing the most skilled and highest-paid applicants.
The cap also extends to employees working in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands.
What happens if you are not selected in the H-1Bvisa lottery? When an application is not successful, the USCIS returns both the filing fees and petition, and you can enter the lottery again the following year. Keep in mind that despite being a repeat applicant, your chances of selection will be similar to those of first-time applicants.
H-1BVisa Application Process
Finding an H-1BVisa Sponsor
Applicants can take the initiative by finding a U.S. employer willing to sponsor their H-1BVISA application.
You need to ensure the employer is willing to hire you. It would be unfortunate if you attempted to apply for a job, only for the employer to decline the sponsorship.
To avoid this, pay attention to advertisements. Most employees will state whether they are willing to sponsor qualified candidates.
Employer Submits Labor Conditions Approval (LCA)
Once you have found an American firm willing to hire you, the employer should initiate the application process on their end.
The first step is to submit a Labor Conditions Approval to the Department of Labor. The LCA can be completed online via the iCERT portal. This application provides specific details to the Department of Defense, including the salary offered, working conditions, and location.
By completing this application, an employer confirms to the government that the employee will receive a wage higher than or equal to the market rate for the position.
These documents also assure the government that the working conditions will not be punitive to other employees working at the company in the same geographical location as the foreign employee.
The LCA is a comprehensive document, and the employer and employee should work collaboratively to ensure it meets all Department of Labor stipulations.
If this is the first H-1Bvisa a company is filing, the federal employment identification verification and the LCA filing’s processing time will average two weeks. If the company had made previous LCA filings, the process takes about a week. Please note that these are only estimates, and other variables might shorten or lengthen these durations.
It’s often advised to begin the application process in early March.
Once an application has been duly completed and submitted, you can check your visa status by logging into the iCERT portal. After you sign-in in with your I.D. number, the platform should let you know whether your application is pending, accepted, or denied.
Employer Submits Form I-129
Once an LCA is approved, the employer is required to file a petition for the foreign worker. The petition requires submitting form I-129.
Some of the required details for this include:
- The education and experience of the prospective employee
- Professional membership documents
- Training certificates
- Applicants resume
- The official employment agreement or contract
- A letter of intended support
The application must also include the requisite fees, which the sponsoring employer pays. The processing timeline is highly dependent on the specific processing service center. The process typically takes three to four months, with premium processing available at an additional cost.
Premium applicants typically receive a decision within 15 working days.
Consulate or Embassy Application by Applicant
If the petition is approved, the applicant must complete the visa application at the embassy or consular office in the applicant’s country of origin.
The timeline for this once again takes two to three working days, depending on the location.
Following are some applicable fees:
- Filing fee: $300
- ACWIA fee: $750 for companies that have 1 to 25 people in their employ
- ACWIA fee: $1,500 for companies with more than 26 people in their employ
- Fraud prevention and detection fee: $500
- Premium processing fee (optional): $1,225
This application can get quite expensive. Fortunately, the employer absorbs most of these costs aside from the premium processing fee. To apply, the employer needs to show that payment of the premium processing fee is a personal decision for the applicant and not one taken for the employer’s benefit.
Some employers will also involve an immigration attorney.
We hope that what you’ve learned from this post will help you secure your H-1B Visa and apply for your dream job in the United States!