Within the H-1, non-immigrant U.S work visas, the most common one that people apply to get is the H1B visa. To get the H1B visa, you need to go through several procedures, so it is best that you are aware of all the details.
What is H1B Visa?
The H1B visa is a U.S work visa that allows companies to employ workers in specialty occupations where a graduate university is required. Because of this, it is also called a Person in Specialty Occupation Visa. This means that you can get this type of visa if you qualify and are accepted in a specific job position which has the following requirements:
- Possession of an advanced educational degree such as:
- A 4 four year Bachelor’s Degree (or equivalent degrees)
- A Master’s or Doctoral Degree
- Advanced training or vocational skills (examples include fashion models)
- Qualify to work in research and development projects of the U.S Department of Defense or other government positions.
The H1B work visa is initiated by a U.S employer. The employer has an open job position and they cannot find an American employee who is qualified enough to complete the work. This can be any position that requires higher education degrees or that is specialized enough in skills that not many people can do it successfully.
Examples of job positions might be:
- IT specialists
- Lawyers, etc.
The employer receives applications from various candidates and if the requirements for the job are fulfilled by a foreign employee, then the US H1B visa process is initiated.
An H1B visa can be given for three years, and then renewed for a maximum of six years. Renewals are done on a one year or three-year basis. But a person is not allowed to stay in the U.S on an H1B visa for more than six years. Exceptions are made only for employees of the U.S government who are allowed to work in the U.S for a maximum of 10 years with an H1B visa.
What are the H1B Visa Requirements?
There are several requirements that both employers and H1B visa employees should fulfill. If either the employer or the employee does not meet the requirements, the U.S might have cause to deny the H1B visa to those applying for it.
Requirements for Employers
A U.S employer is defined as a company or corporation which has an IRS (Internal Revenue Service) number. Since the H1B visa process starts with a U.S employer, they have to be able to meet some requirements specified by the country. The process is also otherwise known as H1B visa sponsorship.
Have a Labor Condition Application (LCA)
When employers want to hire foreign workers, they first have to file a Labor Condition Application by filling in Form ETA 9035E. In that form, they should indicate the number of years that they will hire foreign workers. This form guarantees the U.S and the employees that this employer will:
- Pay the foreign employee the full prevailing wage
- Provide an adequate working environment and conditions
- Notify the employee of any changes made in the labor certification
- Notify the government of the location where the work will be performed
- Provide company information and the number of employees
- State employee job description and income
The LCA is filed with the U.S Department of Labor (DOL). The employer must have an approved LCA before taking any other steps in hiring the employee. The employee cannot start working before all certifications and documents are obtained.
File a petition with USCIS
The next step is to file a petition (H1B Petition) with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). This is done by filling in Form I-129. This form is filed to obtain permission from the U.S government to hire a foreign worker. Employers have to file separate I-129 forms for each employee.
I-129 forms are required:
- If the employee is being hired by two companies, each one has to file a Form I-129
- If the employee wants to extend their work, the employer has to file a Form I-129
- If the employee is switching jobs, the new employer has to file a new Form I-129 (H1B Transfer)
The documents that the employer has to submit when filing the petition are:
- I-129 Form filling fee – Employers can also apply to waive this fee from USCIS by filling in Form I-912
- Employer Funded Training Fee ($1,500 for employers with more than 25 full-time employees in the U.S; $750 for employers with less than 25 full-time employees in the U.S)
- Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee of $500 for each foreign employee
- Pay the Public Law 114-113 Fee of $4,000 – this fee applies if the employer has more than 50 employees, and 50% of them are on H1B or L visas. The employer does not have to pay the fee is they are extending or amending the USCIS petition.
- Employees who want Premium Processing from USCIS have to pay an additional $1,225 (and Form I-907)
- If the employer is represented by an attorney, Form G-28 is also needed
- Form I-129
- Other documents:
- Proof that the foreign worker meets the educational qualifications (copies of diplomas/certifications)
- A copy of the foreign worker’s passport
- A copy of the contract signed by the employer and employee
- Internal Tax Returns of the company
- A report of state wages paid to employees
- 15 photographs of the premise of your business
USCIS will review the petition and determine whether the job is speculative or real, and then grant or deny it. Neither the employer or employee can take any actions before this petition or H1B sponsorship process is approved. If USCIS approves the petition for foreign workers, they will issue a Form I-797. This means that the employee can start application procedures.
USCIS approves around 65,000 petitions per year starting on October 1st to September 30th. 6,800 petitions are reserved for H1B1 visas for Chile and Singapore nationals, while the rest for H1B visas.
Requirements for Employees (H1B Applicants)
In addition to the employers, employees or H1B applicants also have to complete these requirements:
- Meet the educational requirements of the job to qualify as a Person in a Specialty Occupation
- After the employer gets the DOL certification and the petition is approved, apply for the H1B visa
- Gather all necessary documents and pay the fees
H1B Visa Application Process
The H1B Application is filled by the applicant, so the employee. The following procedures need to be taken to complete the application:
Fill in Form DS-160
The DS-160 is the most important part of the application. You need to follow all instructions and provide accurate information.
Schedule a visa interview
Try to schedule the interview as early as possible. U.S Embassies take time to process each request, so the earlier you make the appointment, the better it will be for you.
Pay the H1B visa fees
The fees you have to pay for the H1B visa are:
- Application fee. Which is $190 for H visa categories
- Visa issuance fee. Which is different for various embassies, so you should check with your local U.S Embassy about the amount
- Additional fees. For employers with more than 50 employees, where 50% of them are on H1B or L visas, there is an additional fee of $2,250 which the employee/applicant has to pay
Submit required documents
The documents you have to submit are:
- Your current passport
- Copy of your current passport pages
- All previous passports
- Receipts that prove you have paid your visa fees
- A photograph which meets the Digital Image Requirements
- Visa interview appointment letter (Original and 1 copy)
- Printed Form I-129 Receipt number and the original and 1 copy of Form I-129
- Copy of Form I-797
- Letter from your employer with your job description
- Your qualifications (diplomas and certifications)
If you have worked before in the U.S, you also have to submit:
- Your tax return forms
- Names and contact information of previous employers and supervisors
- Resume or CV
- Pay slips for the past 12 months
If this is the first time you are applying, you should submit these additional documents:
- Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
- Names and contact information of supervisors and managers of your current and previous jobs
- Names and contact information of two co-workers of your current and previous jobs
- A letter describing your job duties and responsibilities of the job you will have in the U.S
- Photographs of your current and previous job locations
- Photographs of the building where you will be working in the U.S (outside and inside), annual report, prospectus, any brochures
- Bank statements
Attend the interview
During the interview, you should have your documents and be prepared to answer extensive questions about your place of work and your specific job. Interviewers will want to test whether you have all information and whether you are going to the U.S to actually become employed or to be involved in any other activity.
If it is your first time applying, they will also take your fingerprints which will be saved in the U.S system.
H1B Visa Processing Time
The H1B visa processing time depends from country to country. It generally takes three to six months for an H1B visa to be processed. It is advisable to apply as early as possible. U.S Embassies in different countries/cities have various processing times, so it is best to contact them for any details.
Each H1B visa is given for three years, and applicants can extend them for another three. The H1B extension procedures are similar to the application in the first time. You will need to pay the same fees, except for the Fraud Prevention and Protection Fee. Your employer will also have to follow the same procedures for getting certification from DOL and an approved petition from USCIS. In addition, you will submit these documents:
- Your passport
- Original I-94 Form (which you will get when your visa is approved)
- Valid I-797 Form
- Letter from your employer describing your work in details and signed by the company representatives
The H1B extension processing time is around three months, so you should plan ahead. USCIS allows you and your employer to apply for extension six months before your H1B visa expires. If the H1B visa has expired, you are allowed to work for another 240 days or until your H1B extension is approved or declined.
During the time you have an H1B visa or an extension, you can also apply for a U.S Green Card. This does not impact your current H1B visa or its extension.
The H1B Amendment requires U.S employers to file an amended petition in case the employee has any material changes. What are material changes? Material changes are defined as anything that impacts the employee’s eligibility for an H1B visa. The USCIS does not give a list of what qualifies as such a change, but examples include:
- Change in corporate structure
- Promotion to a different department of the employee
- If the employee is required to move to a different location than what is registered with USCIS
The amendment can be filed after the change has occurred. There is no universal guideline on the H1B amendment, so employers will have to contact USCIS to determine whether the change qualified and requires an amended petition.
H1B Spouse Visa
Many H1B visa holders want their spouse and children to accompany them. Spouses qualify to accompany H1B visa holders if they get the H-4 visa. Since 2015, H-4 visa holders could qualify to work under the H-4 EAD program in certain conditions. In addition, those with H-4 visas are also allowed to enroll in studies.
Others who qualify to accompany an H1B visa holder are the children of under 21 years old, with an H-4 visa.
What is H1B Visa Stamping?
In case you are granted an H1B visa, you need to go on and apply for the H1B visa stamping. This a process on its own, and you should check out the H1B visa stamping article for more details.
H1B Visa News
The USCIS opens applications every year in spring. The program has a visa cap of 65 thousand applications, meaning when this number is reached no more applications are received. The applications of the first 20 thousand applicants with a master degree are exempt from this visa cap.
For more news and updates on the H1B Visa visit H1B Visa News.
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