H-1B Work Visa
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant work visa that allows U.S. employers to temporarily hire foreign professionals in specialty occupations. It is one of the most popular work visas in the United States, particularly in fields such as technology, engineering, finance, and healthcare.
The H-1B visa program is highly competitive, and the number of petitions typically exceeds the available visa slots. Therefore, not all eligible applicants may be granted an H-1B visa, even if they meet the requirements.
To apply for an H-1B visa, several requirements must be met by both the employer and the employee. These include:
- Job Offer for a Specialty Occupation: The applicant must have a job offer from a U.S. employer in a specialty occupation. A specialty occupation is one that requires theoretical and practical application of a highly specialized body of knowledge and a bachelor's degree or higher in a specific field.
- Educational Requirements: The applicant must have the necessary educational qualifications for the specialty occupation. Typically, this means possessing at least a bachelor's degree or its equivalent in the specific field of study required for the job.
- Labor Condition Application (LCA): The employer must file an LCA with the U.S. Department of Labor, attesting that they will pay the prevailing wage for the offered position and that employing the H-1B worker will not negatively affect the working conditions of U.S. workers.
- Quota and Lottery: The H-1B visa program is subject to an annual numerical cap, which limits the number of new H-1B visas that can be issued each fiscal year. The current cap is set at 85,000 visas, with 65,000 allocated for the general category and an additional 20,000 reserved for individuals who hold advanced degrees from U.S. institutions. If the number of applications exceeds the cap, a lottery system is used to randomly select the petitions for processing. The lottery is conducted before the USCIS begins adjudicating the petitions.
- Adjudication and Approval: Once selected in the lottery, the applicant's H-1B petition is adjudicated by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The USCIS reviews the petition to determine if the applicant meets the eligibility criteria, the offered position qualifies as a specialty occupation, and the applicant possesses the required qualifications.
Visa Validity & Permanent Residency
Once in the United States, H-1B visa holders can work for the sponsoring employer in the approved specialty occupation. The initial validity of the H-1B visa is usually three years, with the possibility of extensions up to a total maximum stay of six years. Certain H-1B holders may be eligible for further extensions if they are pursuing permanent residency.
Spouses of H-1B visa holders are not allowed to work in the US.