What is an H1B Visa?
One of the most commonly requested temporary worker visas is the H1B visa, or the H1B work visa. These visas are available for employees in specialized occupations whose positions require the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or higher. 65,000 new H1B visas are available each year, with an additional 20,000 H1B visas available for applicants who have advanced degrees from U.S. universities. The H1B visa allows companies to employ foreign nationals in occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise for three consecutive years, with the possibility of one three-year extension. After six years, an employee will be expected to leave the United States for at least one year before applying for another H1B visa.
Priori is committed to helping you find the right immigration lawyer to successfully complete your H1B Visa application. While many employers fear that the visa application process will be a complicated and costly hassle, working with a skilled immigration attorney can greatly facilitate the application process for an H1B visa.
Applying for the H1B Visa
A prospective employee cannot apply for an H1B visa on his or her own behalf; filing the application with the USCIS is the employer's responsibility. There is a strict annual quota for H1B visas, so ensuring that you have properly filed your paperwork is very important.
Requirements: You will first need to ensure that the candidate meets the preliminary requirements for an H1B work visa:
Positions eligible for an H1B visa require a Bachelor’s Degree or its equivalent. The employee must have this degree or its equivalent.
Generally, three years of related experience translate into one year of education, and four years of education is considered the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree.
Additionally, as the employer, you must offer at least the prevailing wage for the location in which the employee will be working.
Documentation: For each prospective employee, a separate H1B visa application should be filed. To apply for an H1B work visa, you must submit extensive documentation to the USCIS, including:
A certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) that has been approved by the Department of Labor (DOL),
Form I-129 and Supplement H,
Form G-28 (if you are represented by a lawyer) and
various personal documentation, such as:
evidence of your educational background
other documentation depending on your specific immigration status.
As with any quota-based visa, timing your H1B visa application is of the utmost importance. The USCIS begins accepting applications under the new quota on April 1 of each year. It is best to time your application so that it arrives on exactly that day or soon after. Although your application may be submitted no earlier than six months ahead of your anticipated start date (no earlier than April 1 for an October 1 start date, for example), you will need to file early enough to allow for the processing of your H1B visa.
If you file Form I-907 together with a filing fee of $1,225, you will receive a response within 15 calendar days. If your application is denied, you may file an appeal or a Motion to Re-open within 30 days after the date of the denial. Processing times vary widely for appeals and Motions to Re-open, and oftentimes a better option is to try again the next year with the same H1B visa application.
The H1B visa filing process is complex and requires the submission of far more documentation than other visas. A highly-qualified Priori immigration lawyer can assist you in navigating the H1B visa application process.
While costs may vary depending on your employee’s current situation, submitting an H1B visa application with a Priori attorney typically costs between $1,750 and $2,500 in addition to the related filing fees or document translation services. Your attorney will advise you about any documentation you will need to provide, draft templates and revise required letters, prepare all supporting documents, and finally submit the completed H1B visa petition.
How does the H1B visa quota work?
With certain narrow exceptions, the H1B visa is subject to Congressionally-mandated annual quotas. The general quota for applicants with bachelor’s degrees or the equivalent is 65,000. However, 6,800 of these H1B visas are earmarked under agreements with Chile and Singapore. The remaining 58,200 H1B visas are awarded by random lottery. It is not uncommon for USCIS to receive three times as many applications as there are H1B visas.
An additional 20,000 H1B visas are reserved for applicants with master’s degrees, on a first-come first serve basis. The USCIS keeps the filing open for the first five business days in April. If the caps are met, the filing will close on the fifth business day. The USCIS will then randomly select 20,000 H1B visa petitions from the pool of applicants with U.S. Master’s degrees. The remaining unselected applicants with U.S. Master’s degrees will be added back into the general pool, and USCIS will hold a final lottery to allocate the remaining 58,200 H1B visas.
Are there any similar alternatives to the H1B work visa?
While the H1B visa is extremely popular and competitive, there are other options for individuals depending on their status and background. An individual who is a citizen of Australia or Mexico may pursue an alternative type of visa (an E-3 or TN visa depending on the country of origin). Additionally, a person who is being paid by a foreign corporation may apply for a business visitor (B-1) visa and there are specific visas for religious workers, workers with “extraordinary abilities” (O-1 visas), athletes, and journalists. An experienced immigration attorney can help you decide which visa is most appropriate for your employee and which ones you have the best chances of securing.