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H-1B Visa

Temporary Work Visas

The H-1B visa is a very common visa used for foreign professionals hired by a U.S. employer. H-1Bs can be hired only for what the government calls "specialty occupations," -- jobs requiring the equivalent of at least a bachelor's degree in the field.

This is a visa commonly used for IT professionals of all types – computer programmers, engineers, computer assisted design professionals. It also includes all variations of other professionals such as doctors, engineers, professors, accountants, lawyers, physical therapists and a host of other jobs.

Under current law, no more than 65,000 H-1B visas can be issued each year.

In order to qualify, the employer must demonstrate that the position requires a professional in a specialty occupation and that the intended employee has the required qualifications. Typically, the minimum qualification is a university (bachelor’s) degree or its equivalent.

Employers must also pay a wage to every H-1B worker the “prevailing wage”, that is at least as much as what is typically paid in the region for that type of work Employers cannot make the H-1B nonimmigrants work under conditions different from their U.S. counterparts.

The H-1B visa is issued for 3 years, but can be extended up to 6 years. Presently, the processing of such visas takes between 4-6 months.

What is required to obtain an H1B visa?

An H-1B visa requires that the job qualify as a “specialized occupation” which requires a bachelor’s degree. The applicant must also have a bachelor’s degree in the same or similar field or its equivalent.

Am I eligible for an H-1B visa?

In order to qualify, the employer must demonstrate that the position requires a professional in a specialty occupation and that the intended employee has the required qualifications. Typically, the minimum qualification is a university (bachelor’s) degree or its equivalent.

What can I do on H-1B visa?

• May legally work in the U.S.

• Travel to and from the U.S. and reenter as many times as you wish during the validity period of the H-1B visa, as long as you have a valid stamp in your passport.

• H-1B visa holders may simultaneously seek Lawful Permanent Residency or a Green Card for themselves and for their family.

What are the limitations of H-1B visa?

• If you change jobs you must reapply for a new visa, under the new position

• You can only work for the company with petitioned for you.

Can I bring my dependents on H-1B visa?

Yes, you may bring your dependents on an H-1B visa. Your spouse and unmarried children are entitled to a H-4 visa and they can stay as long as you maintain valid H-1B status..

How long can I stay in the U.S. on an H-1B visa?

Generally H-1B visa is granted for three years. It may then be extended, up to six years total.

Can I transfer my H-1B visa to another company?

Yes, but a new petition must be filed by the company.

What if there is a change in my working conditions while I'm on H-1B status?

As long as you continue to provide H-1B services to a U.S. employer, most changes will not affect your H-1B status. You may change H-1B employers without affecting status, but your new H-1B employer must file a new visa application before you start work.

Is there an annual quota on the number of H-1B visas issued?

Yes. The current annual quota on the H-1B category is 65,000 for each Fiscal Year.

Is everyone covered by the annual quota for H-1B visas?

There are certain exceptions to the annual cap:

• Persons who are employed, or who have received an offer of employment, by institutions of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, as well as those employed, or who will be employed, by a nonprofit research organization or a governmental research organization are exempt from the cap.

• Also, there is a special allocation of H-1B visas for foreign workers with a Master's or higher level degree from a U.S. academic institution. 20,000 beneficiaries of H-1B petitions on behalf of persons who hold such credentials are statutorily exempted from the cap for each year.

WARNING: The above is a summary discussing legal issues. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. We recommend that you get competent legal advice specific to your case.

More Information:

  • H-1B Visas (US Department of Labor)
  • H-1B Visas (USCIS)
  • The list of documents required for H-1B Visa (Kerosky, Purves & Bogue LLP)