USA Work Visa (H1B)
The US H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US 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. Any professional level job that usually requires you to have a bachelors degree or higher can come under the H-1B visa for specialty occupations. If you do not have a bachelors degree or higher you may be able to show degree equivalence through work experience and/or other qualifications.
However, because of the visa cap it is unlikely that an H-1B visa petition will be successful. The US employer petitions for the H-1B Visa in the US which has duration of up to 6 years.
Applying for a non-immigrant visa is generally quicker than applying for a US Green Card, therefore the H-1B visa is popular for companies wishing to bring in staff for long-term assignment in the US. However, because of the lack of available visas employers frequently have to look at applying for other visa categories such as the L-1B for specialized workers, L-1A for managers and executives, E-2 Treaty Investor visa, E-1 Treaty Trader visa, E-3 for Australians etc.
Please note that individuals cannot apply directly for an H-1B visa. Instead the employer must petition for entry of the employee.
H-1B Visa cap
H-1B visas are subject to an annual visa cap each financial year. US employers can begin applying for the H-1B visa six months before the actual start date of the visa. Employers can apply as soon as April 2, 2017 for the 2018 cap, but the beneficiary cannot start work until October 1, 2017.
Current immigration law allows for a total of 85,000 new H-1B visas to be made available each government fiscal year. This number includes 65,000 new H-1B visas available for overseas workers in specialty (professional) level occupations with at least a bachelor’s degree, with an additional 20,000 visas available for those specialty workers with an advanced degree from a US academic institution. In recent years the H-1B visa cap has been heavily oversubscribed near the beginning of April each year. USCIS then holds a lottery for the available H-1B visas available.
Eligibility: specialty occupation
The US H1-B visa is designed to be used for staff in specialty occupations. The job must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a specialty occupation:
- Have a minimum entry requirement of a Bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent.
- The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree.
- The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position.
- The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.
Eligibility: employee qualifications
For you to qualify to accept a job offer in a specialty occupation you must meet one of the following criteria:
- Have completed a US bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specific specialty occupation from an accredited college or university.
- Hold a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree in the specialty occupation.
- Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification which authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation and be engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment.
- Have education, training, or experience in the specialty that is equivalent to the completion of such a degree, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty.
Positions that are not specialty occupations, or for which the candidate lacks the qualifications/experience for an H1B visa, may be filled using an H-2B visa. The L-1B visa a non-immigrant visa which allows companies operating both in the US and abroad to transfer certain classes of employee from its foreign operations to their US operations for up to five years. The employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of your US Company outside of the US for at least one year out of the last three years.
Length of stay
The H-1B visa is initially granted for up to three years, but may then be extended to a maximum of six years.
Even though the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few US visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning the H-1B visa holder can apply for and obtain a US Green Card while in the US on an H-1B visa. If you are still in the US on an H-1B visa and wish to remain in the US for more than six years, you can apply for permanent residency in the US to receive a Green Card. If you do not gain permanent residency prior to the expiration of your H-1B visa, then you must live outside the US for at least one year before reapplying for another H or L visa.
Family & Dependants
H-1B visa holders can bring their spouse and children under 21 years of age to the US under the H-4 Visa category as dependents. An H4 Visa holder is allowed to remain in the US as long as the H-1B visa holder remains in legal status. While, an H-4 visa holder is not eligible to work in the US unless able to come under a non, they may attend school, obtain a driver’s license and open a bank account while in the US.