From all the categories of US non-immigrant visas in the United States, the most popular ones are the B and H visas. The B visa category relates to travel purposes for tourism and business, while the H category is the temporary worker visa. According to the U.S Department of State, around 532,832 people got an H visa for the U.S in 2016. The number who applied was even larger.
Out of these four categories, most people are interested in going to the U.S with an H-1 visa. Because of this high demand, this article will go through the procedures and details of the H-1 visa.
- What is H-1 Visa?
- H-1 Visa Types
- H-1 Visa Requirements
- H-1 Visa Application
- H-1 Visa Processing Time
- H-1 Visa Fees
- H-1 Extension
- H-1 Transfer
What is H-1 Visa?
The H-1 visa gives its holder the right to temporarily work in the United States. The person who has this visa can be employed in the U.S for a specified period of time that they have to put in their application. Most H-1 visas will not continue for more than a maximum of 6 years.
Many people go to the U.S with different types of visas and find illegal employment and remain the country for a long time. The risk in this approach is that if caught, you run the risk of getting deported and the U.S government will not give you a visa or allow you to enter the country anymore.
The advantage of the H-1 visa is that you will be allowed to work in the U.S legally, so you will be a registered employee. In addition, you will not have to hide and live in fear of being sent back to your country of origin. This is what makes the H-1 visa USA so popular amongst those who want to become temporary employees.
H-1 Visa Types
Within the H-1 Visa category there is also a division of different types of visas that people can apply and get. In this case, the types are not based on the purpose of travel, since the applicant states in their application that they want to work in the U.S. The types are divided based on the applicant’s education or field of expertise and their country of origin. The following are types of H-1 Visas:
H-1B Visas – Person in Specialty Occupation
The H-1B visas are for people who will go to the U.S and work in what are called specialty occupations. These specialty occupations can be those that require a degree of higher education or its equivalent. This includes people with Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral Degrees in fields which are demanded by the U.S Department of Labor.
In addition, it also includes occupations which require extensive training, for example fashion models, or those occupations which have distinguished merit in the U.S. Also, occupations that are related to government research and development or projects under the supervision of the Department of Defense, qualify for the H-1B visa.
H-1B1 Visas – Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Professionals from Chile and Singapore
The H-1B1 visas are similar to the H-1B visas, except that they are only designed for nationals of Chile and Singapore. The U.S has a Free Trade Agreement with different countries, and in this case based on that Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the governments of Chile and Singapore, they allow people to come to the U.S and work temporarily.
To qualify for the H-1B1 visa, the applicants have to work in specialty occupations and have secondary degrees in their field of study. Another difference between with the H-1B visa, is that the H-1B1 visa does not require an approved petition from USCIS.
H-1C Visas – Foreign Registered Nurses
The H-1C visas have been designed for one particular field of expertise, which is nursing. Since nurses are highly demanded in the U.S and the country might not have enough qualified workers to fill this shortage, the U.S gives H-1C visas to foreign registered nurses and allows them to work in places where there aren’t enough nurses. The place where the nurses will work is determined by the U.S Department of Labor, which analyzes where nurses are demanded and there is a shortage.
H-4: Spouses or children of other H visas
The H-4 visa is a different category from H-1 Visas, but is worth mentioning since many H-1 visa holders have families and want to bring them in the U.S while they are working. The H-4 visas have been designed for the spouse of an H-1 visa holder and their children who are under 21 years old.
H-1 Visa Requirements
Unlike with other visas, the process of the H-1 Visas is initiated by the employer and not the employee who wants to get the visa. The U.S employer needs to take the following steps so that someone who wants to get an H-1 visa is allowed to get the job position:
File a petition (Form I-129) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
The petition needs to show that the employer is looking for a person of specialized knowledge and skills and they cannot find such a person within the United States. The employer and the person who wants to get the H-1 visa cannot apply for the visa before this petition is approved. When the petition is approved, USCIS will give you Form I-797.
Department of Labor certification
The H-1B and H-1B1 visas also require that employers obtain a certification from the U.S Department of Labor.
Those who want to work in the U.S in the job positions that the employer has posted, will apply for it and attach any necessary documents. The employer then evaluates candidates and needs to show to the U.S government that the applicant(s) fulfill the necessary educational requirements to qualify for the H-1 visa.
Apply for the visa
Only after the approvals from USCIS and DOL, can the employee or the person wanting to get the U.S H-1 visa start their application process.
H-1 Visa Application
To apply for the H-1 visa and its types, the applicant has to use the online DS-160 form. This form, otherwise known as the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application is the platform where applicants will submit their detailed information, as well as their supporting documents.
After the applicant fills the DS-160 form, they will get a confirmation page which they need to print and have with them at the interview. The visa interview needs to be scheduled with your local U.S Embassy, so the one you are applying from in your home country. The interview together with your DS-160 form will serve the U.S Embassy to make their decision about giving you a visa or not.
In addition to the scheduling and attending the interview, you will also need to have the required documents, which you will submit in the DS-160 form or at the interview:
- A valid passport for at least 6 months after your intended return from the U.S to your home country
- A photo which you will submit in the application based on the Digital Image Requirements for US visa.
- The receipt number from the USCIS petition, which can be found in the I-129 form
- Receipt that proves you have paid all the necessary fees
- The original interview appointment letter and a copy
- Form I-129 (original and 1 copy)
- A letter from your employer describing your job position and their intention to hire you
- Degree and non-degree diplomas and certifications
- Letter from your previous employers on your employment history and skills
- Updated Curriculum Vitae (CV) or Resume
- If you are applying for an H-1B1 visa, you will also need to submit some proof that you intend to return to your home country after your visa has expired. To find out what sort of document you can submit as proof, you should contact your local U.S Embassy for more details.
H-1 Visa Fees
There are three types of US visa fees you will have to pay for the H-1 visa:
- Application fee – which for this category is $190 and is non-refundable
- Visa issuance fee – or reciprocity fee is applicable in some countries, and its amount is determined by your location.
- Additional fees – for H-1B applicants, if the company you will be working in has more than 50 employees and more than 50% of them are on H-1B or L-1 visas, there is an additional fee of $4,500.
H-1 Visa Processing Time
The H-1 Visa processing time depends on the country you are from as well as the bulk of applications that the U.S Embassy has gotten in that period. To find out an approximate time of your visa application processing time, visit the this article.
H-1 visas are usually given for a maximum of 3 years. Afterwards you can apply to extend it. Extensions are made on a yearly or on a 3-year basis. However, the maximum amount of time you are allowed to have an H-1 visa is around 6 years. Exceptions apply for people working on projects for the U.S Department of Defense, who can stay in the U.S for a maximum of 10 years.
Your employer should apply for your extension by filing the I-129 form for USCIS, while if you want to extend the stay of your dependents (spouse and children), they should apply for extensions by filling the Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status (Form I-539). Extension applications need to be done while your H-1 visa is still valid. If you visa expires, you will have to return to your country of origin and apply for the visa again. The U.S Department of State recommends that you apply for extensions at least 45 days before your visa expires.
There are a few conditions on whether you are allowed to extend your H-1 visa. These conditions are as follows:
- Your visa has to be valid at the time of application to extend
- You have not committed any crimes while in the U.S
- You are a legal immigrant in the U.S
- You did not violate the terms of your admission into the country
- Your passport is valid and will remain so for the entire duration of your stay
An H-1 transfer means that as a temporary worker in the U.S, you want to switch employers. There are no restrictions to this and the procedures are more or less similar to how you obtained your H-1 visa.
- Your new employer needs to file a new Form I-129 to USCIS (you will not need to have a new visa application since you already have a valid H-1 visa from your previous employer)
- Submit these documents:
- Copy of your I-94 Form (arrival form)
- Copy of your most recent I-797 form
- Copy of current visa stamp
- Copy of your social security card
- Copy of tax returns (if applicable)
- Copies of all pages of your passport
- Copy of your work experience and offer letters
- Copy of all your degrees and certificates
- Updated resume
- Recent paystubs
- If you have medical professions, you will need to submit a copy of your state license
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