The US H-1B visa is a visa that allows non-immigrant workers to be employed in the United States by domestic companies in specialty occupations. These jobs are classified as those which require advanced knowledge and expertise in specialty fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine, accounting, architecture, etc.
Specialty occupations usually require an employee to hold a bachelor’s degree or postgraduate level degree. If an applicant for an H-1B visa does not hold one of these degrees, they may be able to provide proof of an equivalence in work experience or skill. However, it is more likely that an H-1B visa will be granted to a petitioner who holds a master’s degree or doctorate.
An H-1B visa application generally takes less time to apply for than for a US Green Card because it is a non-immigrant visa. Because of this, the H-1B visa has become a popular way for American companies to employ staff for long-term assignment in the United States of up to six years. These U.S. employers (not individual applicants) petition for an H-1B on behalf of a prospective employee, a process that has become more difficult in recent years because of certain cap restrictions on the number of H-1B visas allotted each year.
H-1B Visa Cap
The number of H-1B visas allotted annually are subject to a cap each year. U.S. employers are allowed to begin petitioning for H-1B visas six months prior to the official start date of that year’s visa. Current federal laws allow for only 65,000 approved petitions for overseas workers to be awarded for the year 2019. Recently, the H-1B visa cap has been pushed by far greater quantities of petitions than those available to be given to foreign employees.
There are exemptions, however, in place for those employees who will be employed by institutions of higher learning, non-profit organizations that are affiliated with institutions of higher learning, non-profit research organizations, government organizations, or other employers who will employ the H-1B recipient to work for them at other institutions that are protected under cap exemptions.
For non-exempt applicants, a lottery is then held each year to choose the 20,000 visas available to those with master’s degrees. Those who are not selected in this lottery may be entered into another regular lottery for the other 65,000 visas.
Those without a U.S. master’s degree enter into a separate regular lottery. For those seeking positions that are not considered specialty positions, or those lacking the academic qualifications for an H-1B visa, they may choose to file for an H2-B visa instead.
Length Of Residence
An H-1B visa holder is allowed to remain in the U.S. for an initial three years, but their residence may be extended an additional three years, for a maximum duration of six years.
H-1B Visa and Applying For Permanent Residency
Though the H-1B is a non-immigrant visa, it is still recognized as a visa of dual-intent. This means that an H-1B holder may apply for a U.S. Green Card while in the U.S. and potentially be granted one. If you wish to remain in the U.S. after the maximum six year allowance of residency under the H-1B visa, you are eligible to apply for permanent residency. If you are not granted permanent residency before the H-1B visa expires, you are then required to reside outside of the U.S. for a minimum of one year before reapplying for another H-1B\.
Family & Dependents
H-1B visa holders are allowed to live with their spouse and children under 21 years of age in the U.S. if registered under the H4-Visa category of dependents. An H-4 visa holder may remain in the U.S. if the H-1B visa holder is in good legal standing.