What is an H1-B visa?
The h1 b visa is a nonimmigrant work visa that empowers U.S. employers to hire foreign professionals with specialized skills for a predetermined duration in the United States. Explore this comprehensive guide to learn about H-1B visa eligibility, the H-1B visa cap, associated costs, and the application process, and find answers to frequently asked questions. Discover the pathway to pursuing opportunities in technology, finance, engineering, architecture, and more. Get started on your journey today!
Table of Contents
- Eligibility for the H-1B Visa
- Understanding the H-1B Visa Cap
- Cost of the H-1B Visa
- The H-1B Visa Application Process
- After H-1B Visa Approval
Eligibility for the H-1B Visa
- Bachelor’s degree or higher (or equivalent) in a specific field related to the intended job.
- An evaluation of foreign degrees by a reputable credential evaluation agency may be required.
H-1B Documents Checklist 2023
- Your current valid passport.
- Copies of your approval notice for your I-797.
- A photo of yourself that meets the U.S. passport photo guidelines.
- Confirmation letter for your H-1B Dropbox appointment.
- Confirmation page for your DS-160.
- Copy of your employment verification letter.
- The job position must require specialized knowledge and skills that are not readily available in the U.S. labor market.
- The skills should be related to a specific professional occupation such as technology, finance, engineering, architecture, etc.
Job Offer and Employer Sponsorship
- An employer in the United States must offer you a job position that is eligible for the H-1B visa.
- The employer must file an H-1B petition on your behalf, indicating the intent to employ you and meet the necessary legal requirements.
- The employer must agree to pay you the prevailing wage for the specific occupation and geographical location where you will be employed.
- The prevailing wage is determined by the Department of Labor to ensure that foreign workers are not hired at lower wages than U.S. workers.
Valid Employment Relationship
- There must be a legitimate and valid employer-employee relationship between you and the sponsoring employer.
- The employer should have the ability to hire, fire, and supervise your work.
- You must demonstrate non-immigrant intent, indicating that you have the intention to reside temporarily in the United States and return to your home country after the H-1B visa expires.
- You may need to provide evidence of ties to your home country, such as property ownership, family relationships, or career prospects.
It’s important to note that eligibility requirements may vary and are subject to change. It is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney or review the official USCIS guidelines for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding H-1B visa eligibility.
How to apply for an H1-B visa
Here are the steps you need to go through in order to apply for the H1B visa:
- Make sure you qualify for the H1B visa.
- Find a petitioner by applying for a job opening in the United States.
- Have the petitioning initiated by your employer.
- Apply for the H1B visa at the nearest US Embassy/Consulate in your home country.
Understanding the H-1B Visa Cap
The H-1B visa program in the United States has an annual numerical limit, commonly referred to as the H-1B visa cap. The cap sets a maximum number of H-1B visas that can be issued each fiscal year. Here are key points to help you understand the H-1B visa cap:
- The regular H-1B visa cap limit is set at 65,000 visas per fiscal year.
- An additional 20,000 H-1B visas are reserved for individuals who hold a master’s degree or higher from a U.S. institution (known as the H-1B Master’s Cap).
- The U.S. government’s fiscal year starts on October 1st and ends on September 30th.
- H-1B visa petitions subject to the cap can be filed up to six months in advance, starting on April 1st of each year.
- When the number of H-1B visa petitions exceeds the cap limit, a lottery system is used to randomly select the petitions that will be processed further.
- The lottery is conducted separately for the regular cap and the H-1B Master’s Cap.
Exemptions and Exceptions
- Certain H-1B petitions are exempt from the cap limit, including those filed by institutions of higher education, non-profit research organizations, and government research organizations.
- Individuals who already hold an H-1B visa and seek to extend their stay or change employers are also exempt from the cap.
Lottery Selection Process
- Petitions subject to the cap are assigned a unique number through a random selection process.
- USCIS notifies employers whose petitions have been selected in the lottery, allowing them to proceed with the H-1B visa processing.
Cap Reach and Timing
- In recent years, the demand for H-1B visas has exceeded the cap limit, resulting in a situation where the number of petitions exceeds the available visas.
- It is crucial for employers and applicants to submit their H-1B visa petitions as soon as possible after the filing window opens on April 1st to maximize their chances of selection.
H-1B Cap Exempt Petitions
- H-1B visa petitions that are cap-exempt due to being filed by eligible employers or fall under exemptions are not subject to the cap limit.
- These cap-exempt petitions can be filed at any time throughout the year.
Understanding the H-1B visa cap and its implications is important for employers and individuals seeking to obtain an H-1B visa. It is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney or review the official USCIS guidelines for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding the H-1B visa cap and related processes.
Cost of the H-1B Visa
Please note that there are potentially significant changes to the government filing fees for H-1B visa applications, which may come into effect in summer 2023. The current proposed increase for Form I-129, the petition for nonimmigrant worker, is from $460 to $1,385—a substantial 201% increase. Additionally, the pre-registration fee may rise by 2050%, from $10 to $215.
These changes are part of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plan to adjust filing costs for various visa application types, including marriage green cards and those adjusting status to green cards. While these proposed fees are not yet implemented, it is crucial to stay informed and updated on any official government announcements.
At Boundless, we closely monitor all government updates to provide the most accurate and up-to-date information on H-1B visa filing fees and related processes. Please consult with an immigration attorney or refer to the official USCIS guidelines to ensure you have the latest information when preparing your H-1B visa application.
The H-1B Visa Application Process
Once you have been selected to apply for the H-1B visa, the application process involves the following steps:
- Your employer files a petition on your behalf by submitting a Labor Condition Application (LCA) to the Department of Labor (DOL) for Certification.
- The LCA ensures that your employer will provide fair wages and appropriate working conditions.
Form I-129 Submission
- Your employer completes Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, and submits it to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), along with the certified LCA and supporting documents.
- Supporting documents may include educational qualifications, training certificates, resume, confirmation of employment, letters of support, and applicable fees.
Form I-129 Approval
- If USCIS approves the Form I-129 petition, you will receive a Notice of Action (Form I-797) indicating the approval.
- The approved petition allows you to proceed with the next steps depending on your location.
Change of Status (If Already in the U.S.)
- If you are already in the United States on a different nonimmigrant status, you may apply for a Change of Status to H-1B without leaving the country.
- You can start working once your H-1B status becomes active.
Consular Processing (If Outside the U.S.)
- If you are outside the United States, you will need to complete Form DS-160, pay the application fee, and schedule an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Gather the required documents, including your passport, DS-160 confirmation page, approved I-129 petition, fee receipts, and a passport-sized photo.
Attend Visa Interview
- Attend the scheduled visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate.
- Be prepared to answer questions about yourself, the job, your experience, the employer, and your travel history.
- Present the required documents during the interview, including your passport, confirmation page, I-129 approval notice, fee receipts, and a passport-sized photo.
- If approved, the U.S. embassy or consulate will issue an H-1B visa stamp in your passport.
- Once you receive the visa, you can travel to the United States and begin working for your employer.
Please note that the H-1B visa application process can be complex, and it is advisable to consult with an immigration attorney or seek guidance from a trusted source for personalized assistance.
After h1 b visa Approval
Travel to the United States
Once your H-1B visa has been approved and you have received the visa stamp in your passport, you can make arrangements to travel to the United States.
Ensure that you have all necessary travel documents, including your passport, visa stamp, and supporting documents.
Port of Entry
Upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry (airport, seaport, or land border crossing), you will go through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection.Present your passport, visa stamp, and supporting documents, including the I-797 approval notice, to the CBP officer. The CBP officer will verify your documents and may ask you questions about your purpose of travel and employment in the United States.
Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
After passing the CBP inspection, you will receive an electronic or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record.
It records your authorized period of stay in the United States. Review the I-94 for accuracy, ensuring that the class of admission is “H-1B” and the expiration date matches the approved duration on your I-797.
Report to Your Employer
Once you have entered the United States, it is essential to report to your employer as instructed.
Provide them with the necessary documentation, such as the I-797 approval notice and your I-94 record.
After reporting to your employer, you can begin working in the United States in the H-1B visa status.
Ensure that you comply with the terms and conditions specified in your approved H-1B petition, such as the job position, location, and wage.
Maintain Valid H-1B Status
Throughout your stay in the United States, it is crucial to maintain valid H-1B status.
Adhere to the terms of employment, including working for the sponsoring employer and maintaining the required wage level.
Notify your employer of any changes in employment, such as job title, location, or significant changes in job duties.
Visa Extensions and Changes
If you need to extend your stay in the United States beyond the initial H-1B validity period, your employer can file a petition for an extension with USCIS. If you wish to change employers while on an H-1B visa, the new employer must file an H-1B transfer petition on your behalf.
Dependent Family Members
If eligible, your dependent family members (spouse and unmarried children under 21) can apply for H-4 visas to accompany or join you in the United States. They will need to follow the appropriate visa application process and may have certain restrictions on employment.
It is important to consult with an immigration attorney or refer to the official USCIS guidelines for detailed information and guidance regarding your specific situation and any updates to the H-1B visa rules and regulations.
Obtaining an H-1B visa is a significant step toward pursuing employment opportunities in the United States. The process involves employer sponsorship, filing the necessary forms, and obtaining approval from USCIS. Once approved, you can travel to the United States, report to your employer, and begin working in your H-1B status. It is crucial to maintain valid H-1B status, adhere to the terms of employment, and comply with any visa extensions or changes as needed. Keeping up-to-date with immigration regulations and consulting with professionals will ensure a smooth and successful H-1B visa journey.
Apply Now for H-1B Visa
Can I change employers on an H-1B visa?
Yes, it is possible to change employers while on an H-1B visa. The new employer must file an H-1B transfer petition on your behalf, which, if approved, will allow you to work for the new employer.
Can I pursue a permanent residency (green card) while on an H-1B visa?
Yes, it is possible to pursue a green card while on an H-1B visa. Your employer or you (self-petition) can initiate the green card process by filing the appropriate immigrant visa petition (such as an employment-based petition, family-based petition, or other eligible categories).
Can my family members accompany me on an H-1B visa?
Yes, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old can accompany you to the United States on H-4 visas. However, please note that H-4 visa holders generally cannot work in the United States unless they obtain proper authorization or qualify for certain exceptions.