The deadline to file for H-1B visas is April 1st. To demystify the application process for employers, we hosted a talk at Build Grand Central with Priori immigration lawyer Sarah Edgecomb. Sarah delved into the requirements and intricacies of the H-1B visa process, as well as alternative processes for foreign employee sponsorship.
Check out our free video of the event. Here is a summary:
H-1B Visa Program: What is it?
The H-1B visa program is a temporary program that allows businesses in the U.S. to sponsor foreign workers as employees. The visa is issued in three-year increments. After the first three years, the employer may file for one three-year extension. After six years in H-1B status, the employee may qualify for further extension under special circumstances only. A pending green card application for the employee could qualify as such a circumstance.
Viable U.S. employers are able to file for the H-1B program. To attain status as a viable employer, a business must demonstrate its capacity to stay in business through the duration of the three-year H-1B period and commit to paying the employee the prevailing wage. The prevailing wage is what the Department of Labor considers to be the standard wage for an employee working in that category of occupation in a particular geographic area.
To qualify for the H-1B program, the worker must possess the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree, and the position must demand this level of expertise.
There are many obstacles in the H-1B application process; an immigration lawyer will be a valuable partner in overcoming them. It’s important to get your application in early and to do it right.
First is the question of whether the position in fact demands a bachelor’s degree. Outside of the hard sciences, it can be very difficult to prove this.
Calculating the prevailing wage can also be a challenge. Lawyers overcome this by using the Department of Labor’s wage library and examining the wage range and experience of a company’s employees.
Last, but certainly not least, is the obstacle of chance. A lottery determines which H-1B applications are processed, and of those selected in the lottery, only 65,000 approvals are given. In 2015, the chances of receiving an H-1B visa were 28%. People with U.S. master’s degrees are eligible for one of an additional 20,000 reserved spots.
The H-1B program is not for everyone, and as noted, there are many challenges. Luckily, there are alternatives. There are also a few exemptions from the H-1B cap and deadline.
Organizations exempt from the H-1B cap and deadline include nonprofit universities, nonprofit organizations affiliated with universities, nonprofit research organizations and certain for-profit affiliates of exempt organizations. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will need to see sufficient evidence supporting this exemption.
Certain employees are also eligible for other visa options. Some are very specific, such as those for journalists or religious workers. Others are for a broader range of individuals. These more general alternatives include the O-1 visa, L-1 visa, E-1 or E-2 visa, J-1 visa, and Green Card sponsorship. View the video for more details.
Sponsoring a foreign worker in the U.S. is a difficult but necessary process for many companies. Using an immigration lawyer provides peace of mind, moves the process along efficiently, and ensures the greatest chance of success.
If you have any questions or want to hire a lawyer to advise you on your H-1B visa application, you can request a free consultation with an experienced member of Priori Legal’s network here.