Complete guide to obtaining an H1B visa, eligbility, requirements, and FAQs

The H1B visa is also called a Person in Specialty Occupation Visa. This means that you qualify for the H1B visa if you 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 US Department of Defense or other government positions.
  • Examples of job positions might be:
    • IT specialists.
    • Architects.
    • Accountants.
    • Professors.
    • Doctors.
    • Lawyers, etc.

The H1B work visa is initiated by an employer in the United States. The employer must have 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.

Then, 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.

A US employer is defined as a company or corporation which has an IRS (Internal Revenue Service) number.

Since the H1B visa process starts with a US employer, they have to be able to meet some requirements specified by the country. The process is also otherwise known as H1B visa sponsorship.

See the difference between the H1b visa and the L1 visa here

H1B Visa Cap

The applications open every year in spring. USCIS approves around 65,000 petitions per year starting from October 1st to September 30th of the following year.  6,800 petitions are reserved for H1B1 visas for Chile and Singapore nationals, while the rest for H1B visas. The applications of the first 20 thousand applicants with a master’s degree are exempt from this visa cap.

H1B Visa Dates in 2021

The registration process dates for an H1B visa are as follows:

  • March 2 – Petitioners (employers) can start creating an H1B registrant account at noon US Eastern time.
  • March 9 to March 25 – H1B registration period. The registration period opens and closes at noon US Eastern time.
  • March 31 – By this date, the USCIS will have notified the selected entrants.
  • April 1 – if your employer’s petition was selected, this is the earliest date that you may submit an application for an H1B visa for FY 2022.

How to Apply for the H1B Visa?

Here are the steps you need to go through in order to apply for the H1B visa:

  1. Make sure you qualify for the H1B visa.
  2. Find a petitioner by applying for a job opening in the United States.
  3. Have the petitioning initiated by your employer.
  4. Apply for the H1B visa at the nearest US Embassy/Consulate in your home country.

H1B Visa Petitioning Process for Employers

Here are the steps that employers need to go through to petition a foreign worker:

  1. Have a Labor Condition Application (LCA).
  2. File a petition with USCIS.
  3. Fill in form I-129.
  4. Submit the forms and the documents file.
  5. Wait for the review from USCIS.

Have a Labor Condition Application (LCA)

The US employer must get an approved Labor Conditions Application (LCA) from the US Department of Labor. This certifies that the US employer can hire foreign workers. It also states that the employer will offer them fair compensation and treatment. Finally, it proves that the employer must hire a foreign worker because a US citizen is not qualified, available, or willing to work in that job position.

In that form, they should indicate the number of years that they will hire foreign workers. This form guarantees the US 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 US 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 second step is to give a job offer to the foreign employee and file the Form I-129. This is the petition which goes to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker is the main form and USCIS is the main authority in processing the petitions. This form is filed to obtain permission from the US government to hire a foreign worker.

I-129 forms

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)

Submit the forms along with the document file

The forms must be signed in black ink and compiled in a file. The petitioner must include the fee checks and the following supporting documents:

  • 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 US; $750 for employers with less than 25 full-time employees in the US)
  • 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

Where do I submit the petition?

The petition is then submitted to USCIS in one of its four locations:

  • Nebraska Service Center (LIN for Lincoln, Nebraska);
  • Vermont Service Center (EAC for Eastern Adjudication Center);
  • Texas Service Center (SRC for Southern Regional Center);
  • California Service Center (WAC for Western Adjudication Center).

The employer must submit the petition at the closest service center in the area that they are. Once USCIS receives it, they will issue your case number. The case number will have a specific format. An example would be EAC-18-107-50321. This is the number through which you must check your petition status.

The first three letters show the service center (EAC in this case is for Vermont). The second two numbers (18) refer to the year that the petition is submitted. In this case it refers to the year of 2018. The other number (107) refers to the day when the application was submitted. This gets counted from the first day that USCIS opens the application period until the last day, not including weekends and holidays. And the final five numbers (50321) represent your case number. This case number is not in order of how your application gets received. USCIS does not give information on how they number this.

Wait for the review from USCIS

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.

Steps to Apply for an H1B Visa

The H1B Application is filled by the applicant. In addition to the employers, employees or H1B applicants also have to complete these steps:

  1. 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.
  2. Schedule an interview. Try to schedule the interview as early as possible. US Embassies take time to process each request, so the earlier you make the appointment, the better it will be for you.
  3. Pay the H1B visa fees. The application fee is $190.
  4. Submit required documents for H1B Visa.
  5. Attend the H1B 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. If it is your first time applying, they will also take your fingerprints which will be saved in the US system.

Required Documents for an H1B Visa Application

After you have paid the H1B visa fees, you must submit the required documents for employees as listed below:

  • 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 US, 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 US.
  • Photographs of your current and previous job locations.
  • Photographs of the building where you will be working in the US (outside and inside), annual report, prospectus, any brochures.
  • Bank statements.

Total Costs of an H1b Visa

Besides the $190 for the H1B application at the embassy additional fees you have to pay for the H1B visa are:

  • Visa issuance fee. Which is different for various embassies, so you should check with your local US 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

To determine the costs of the H1B visa application, you can use our H1B visa fees calculator:


What Is the H1B Lottery?

The lottery is the process through which the USCIS selects which applicants will receive an H1B visa. The selection is entirely random.

Your employer has a two-week frame in March to submit an H1B petition to the USCIS. (The H1B 2021 lottery opened on March 9 and ran until March 25). After submission, the USCIS put the petition through the random selection digital process and randomly select 85,000 people from the pool of applicants.

The US issues 65,000 regular H1B visas and 20,000 H1B visas for applicants who have a master’s degree or higher.

If you have been selected, the USCIS will notify your employer by the end of March. Then, starting from April 1, you can schedule an interview appointment with the US Embassy/Consulate in your country and get the visa stamp on your passport.

How to See My H1B Status Updates?

When your employer submits the H1B visa petition, you will receive a 13-digit receipt number which you can use to check on your H1B status on the USCIS website. The receipt number starts with an “ EAC, WAC, LIN, SRC, NBC, MSC or IOE” and is followed by 10 numbers.  Your status could state one of the following:

  • Submitted – Your employer has submitted the petition and it is eligible to be selected.
  • Selected – You have been selected and can file an H1B cap petition.
  • Not Selected – You have not been selected and cannot file an H1B cap petition.
  • Denied – Your employer has submitted more than one petition on your behalf and thus, your entire petition has been rejected.
  • Invalidated-Failed Payment – Your employer has submitted a petition, but the payment has somehow failed or not gone through.

What Kind of Health Insurance Am I Eligible For?

The type of H1B health insurance you are eligible for depends on how long you will be staying in the United States. As an H1b visa holder you can have:

  • Short-term insurance
  • Long-term (domestic) insurance

To learn more about the health insurance options for H1B visa holders visit the article.

How Long Do I Have to Wait for Processing?

The H1B visa processing time depends from country to country. US Embassies in different countries/cities have various processing times, so it is best to contact them for any details.

How Long Can I Stay in the US with an H1B Visa?

The H1B visa is initially valid for 3 years but can extend for another 3 years. In total, a person can stay and work in the US for 6 years at most. However, that does not mean that the person must return to their home country. What makes the H1B visa popular is that it is a dual intent visa.

Dual intent visas allow its holders to apply for a change of status to an immigrant visa. So, if you qualify and have a valid job offer after the 6 years, you may apply for an Employment Based Green Card.

How to Extend the H1B Visa?

The H1B extension procedures are similar to the initial application process. 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 detail and signed by the company representatives.

H1B Amendment

The H1B Amendment requires US employers to file an amended petition in case the employee has any 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 the 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.

Can I Bring My Spouse With Me?

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 H4 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.

It is recommended that the dependent spouse obtains a health insurance policy before travelling to the US due to the enormous costs of healthcare in the United States.

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.

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 US and the country might not have enough qualified workers to fill this shortage, the US 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 US Department of Labor, which analyzes where nurses are demanded and there is a shortage.

Latest H1B Visa News and Updates

For more news and updates on the H1B Visa visit H1B Visa News.

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