By Maud Poudat | US Immigration Attorney
Posted: February 29, 2016
April 1st is quickly approaching, and given the limited quotas of the H1B work visa, it is imperative for H1B work visa applications to be ready to file by that date. With that in mind, is it time for you to contact our office in order to prepare your application? Have you found a potential employer yet? Confused about the process, or the benefits of an H1B work visa? Read on for answers and more.
The H1B work visa is a non-immigrant visa, granted in 3-year periods to foreigners working in specialty occupations, which require “the theoretical and practical use of a body of highly-specialized knowledge”. All candidates must hold at least a Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent experience) in the same field as that in which they seek employment, and the field of employment must be one in which practitioners are generally expected to have a Bachelor’s degree or higher in order to work within that field.
The H1B work visa can also be granted to entertainers who have recognized talent or specialized skills, or to those performing a service associated with the Department of Defense.
The initial 3-year period for which the H1B work visa is granted can be prolonged to a maximum of 6 years. This visa is one of the few non-immigrant visas that permit the holder to petition for Lawful Permanent Resident status. Additionally, thanks to the portability provisions of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21), an H1B work visa holder can transition their employment authorization to a different employer, provided they have had a pending I-485 application for at least six months, and that the position to which they’re moving is substantially similar to their current one.
A recurring difficulty when dealing with H1B visas is that the holder’s partner (granted an H4 visa) is not authorized to work, with few exceptions. Another difficulty is that, due to the widespread retrogression of priority dates, many H1B visa holders remain ineligible to file an I-485, thus making it impossible for them to change jobs within the provisions of the AC21. Thus, an H1B holder may find him or herself stuck with the same employer for the duration of the visa term, even when more appealing substantially similar options may be present.
The H1B work visa demand process is initiated by the employer of the future holder, which must obtain a certification from the Department of Labor concerning the work conditions foreseen for the candidate, through the filing of a Labor Condition Application. The salary offered must likewise be in line with minimum legal requirements and industry standards.
The employer will then file a Petition for Non-Immigrant worker (Form I-129) with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services which can take from 15 days to a couple of months to get approved.
The starting date for applications is six months prior to the employment start date. Generally, because the US government’s fiscal year begins October 1st, this means applications should be filed on April 1st, for employment opportunities beginning on or after October 1st.
This visa falls under the quota system, which means there is a limited number (65,000) made available each year. This quota, however, does not apply to candidates sponsored by educational institutions, non-profit research centers, or governmental research centers. An additional 20,000 visas are also made available to applicants who have completed their master’s degree or higher at an American institution.
That being said, this quota is filled very rapidly each year. For example, in 2015 alone, USCIS received more than 172,500 applications, clearly far more than the quota allows for.
Therefore, if you seek to hire an H1B employee, or seek to be a future H1B employee yourself, I recommend you contact me right away to begin working on your application immediately!