Non-immigrant work visa for professional occupations
What is an H-1B visa?
The U.S. H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows U.S. companies to employ graduate level workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc.
Specialty occupation means an occupation which requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in fields of human endeavor including, but not limited to, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts, and which requires the attainment of a bachelor's degree or higher, or its equivalent, or a combination of education and experience, in a specific specialty, as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.
Who can apply for an H-1B visa?
The U.S. employer must petition for entry of the employee.
When can an employer apply for an H-1B visa?
Most H-1B visa petitions are subject to an annual visa cap (85,000) each fiscal year. The beneficiary of an initial H-1B petition cannot start work in his H-1B status before October 1st. U.S. employers can begin applying for the initial H-1B visa six months before the actual start date of the visa.
In recent years the H-1B visa cap has been heavily oversubscribed near the beginning of April each year. USCIS is required to accept petitions received during the first five business days of April. USCIS then holds a lottery for the available H-1B visas.
*Examples of exceptions to the cap filing limits: extension, transfer, amendment, petitions filed by non-profit organizations affiliated with higher education institutions.
How long is an H-1B visa valid for?
The H-1B visa is initially granted for up to three years, but may then be extended to a maximum of six years. In order for the beneficiary to be eligible to extend H-1B status beyond six years, it is necessary for the foreign national to be the beneficiary of Green Card process where:
a Labor Certification (PERM) has been filed at least 365 days before the end of the six years of H-1B status (or I-140 in those cases that do not need the PERM filing) or
a PERM and I-140 have been approved before the end of the six years of H1B status.
Can employer petition for a Green Card on behalf of an H-1B employee?
Yes. Even though the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the very few U.S. visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning the H-1B visa holder can apply for and obtain a Green Card while in the U.S. on an H-1B visa.
Can family and dependents come and stay in the US with the H-1B worker?
H-1B visa holders can bring their spouse and children under 21 years of age to the U.S. under the H-4 visa category as dependents. An H-4 visa holder is allowed to remain in the U.S. as long as the H-1B visa holder remains in legal status.