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H1B Visa Requirements and How to Apply? Research Team | Posted On Tuesday, March 26,2019, 05:48 PM

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H1B Visa Requirements and How to Apply?



Each year, numerous workers are employed by American companies in the United States of America. These employees are hired to fill positions that require special knowledge, skills or education. For example, an American digital marketing company needs a technical writer and the company is not able to find a Native American capable of taking up this role.

But, the company has an immediate requirement to fill this role. Therefore, the company turns to an engineering school in another country for a talent search and hires someone from India or China. The new hires must first receive visas to enter the United States to start their employment for the digital marketing company. However, they will soon find that like most foreign hires, obtaining a work visa is a very confusing and complicated process.

The H1B visa for special employment can be your way to working in the United States. For those who are recently hired by a US company, but not sure on what to do next, this article gives information which you must know to start your job in the USA.

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H1B Visa Requirements and How to Apply?

What is H1B Visa?

The H1B visa is an authorization given by the US government, to a foreign worker, to relocate to the United States, to work for an American company. H1B visa can be considered an emigration visa. Note that foreign workers must be employed in a field that requires specialized knowledge and therefore if a Company needs special skills and cannot find them in a native American, it seeks skilled workers from abroad.

Along with specialized workers, the H1B visa is applicable to the Department of Defense cooperative research and development project workers and fashion models. First Lady of USA, Melania Trump, is a popular example of a fashion model entering the United States through H1B visa and later becoming a citizen of the United States.

When applying for H1B visa, the applicant is sponsored by the employer. The employer must pay the applicant’s H1B visa fee, and submit the requisite documents on behalf of the applicant.

SEE ALSO: Visa Requirements

H1B Visa Validity

H1B visas are valid for three years and may be extended up to six years. There are exceptions which permit extension of the visa for a few more years depending on the work being done. For instance, a foreign employee working at the US Department of Defense can avail extension of the H1B visa for up to 10 years.

If you quit or are terminated by the employer, then you will have to find a new employer and complete the paperwork to apply for a change in status, or get deported to the home country. Grace period of 60 days is provided to find an employer or submit your green card application for permanent residency.

If you are deported, then your employer is responsible for costs related to your return, this is if you have not voluntarily resigned. If you are hired by a new employer post deportation, then you would have to undergo the H1B visa process as a new applicant.

Family Members of H1B Visa Holders

Major questions arising amongst the family members of H1B visa holders are ‘What about the family members of an H1B visa holder who moves to the US? Can they not relocate to the US and live with H1B visa holders?’ The answer is yes! H1B visa is one of the few US visas that allows family members of H1B visa holders to stay with them in the US.

To be eligible to relocate to the US with a H1B visa holder, the dependent family members must complete the H4 visa application process. This process can be completed along with the person applying for H1B visa or after the person holding H1B visa has left to the US.

H4 visa holders are allowed to get admission to schools and universities, have bank accounts, obtain driving license and receive the social security number. H4 visa holders are also allowed to be employed in the US. Note that if H1B visa expires, even the H4 visa expires and he/she must get back to the home country. H4 visas are issued to the spouse and unmarried children (under the age 21) of a H1B visa holder.

Eligibility for H1B Visa

H1B visa applicants must meet the eligibility criteria mentioned below:

  • An applicant must hold a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree (or the foreign equivalent).
  • The skill and degree requirements for the job are typical in nature.
  • The employment requirements need a professional in a specialty occupation.
  • Applicant must have good understanding and immense knowledge in the field of work.
  • The employer must prove the lack of qualified Native American candidates for the position.

Applicants can bypass this requirement if they have experience of at least 12 years in a specialized job. For example, MD for a surgeon.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS, has defined specialty occupations as an occupation of which “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.” These special fields for H1B visas usually include engineering, journalism, medicine and health, research, law, business specialties and so on.

How to Apply H1B Visa Online?

Potential H1B applicants meeting this requirement can go ahead and apply for the H1B visa.

H1B Visa Process

Step 1: Find a H1B visa Sponsor

The H1B visa, an emigration visa requires applicants to be sponsored by an American employer. Hence, someone who wishes to immigrate to USA by means of H1B, must get employment with a US employer who is ready to sponsor H1B which enables them work in the USA.

While being hired for employment in the United States, you must ensure that the employer is ready to sponsor your visa. The worst thing that can happen is to be hired for a job and discover that the employer is not willing to help you relocate to the United States.

To avoid this, make it clear to your employer right at the start of your job application process that you require visa sponsorship without which you cannot work in the US. Most employers would ask these themselves at the time of completing the job application. If you are not asked, then you must raise the sponsorship issue yourself.

Step 2: Employer Submits Labor Conditions Approval (LCA)

Once an America company has hired you, the employer would start the application process by submitting labor conditions approval, LCA, to the department of labor, DOL, online through iCERT portal system.

Once a US company has hired you, the employer will begin the application process by submitting an LCA to the Department of Labor (DOL) electronically using the iCERT Portal System. LCA stands for Labor Conditions Approval and tells the DOL the various factors of your job like pay, location, and working conditions.

By completing the LCA, the employer would attest to the US Government that the employee would receive a wage that is equal to or greater than the prevailing wages for the position in the geographical areas where the employment would be set up and the working conditions shall not be harmful in any way to the other similarly employed workers.

LCA is a complex document and you must closely work with the employer to make sure that it meets the requirements of the department of labor.

Step 3: Employer Submits Form I-129

Once the LAC has received the approval, the employer would then file a petition for a non-immigration worker, Form I-129. To complete this step, the employer must include the fee, training certificates, education, evaluation of the experience related to the employment offered, professional memberships (if any), resume of the applicant, employment agreement and letter of support.

The processing time of the petition varies across service centers and the wait can be for 3 or 4 months. If you are not willing to wait for too long, there is premium processing available at an extra cost.

Step 4: Applicant Completes Application at a US Embassy or Consulate

If the visa petition is approved, then the last step is done by the aspirant. The applicant must get in touch with the home country’s US embassy or consulate. This usually takes 2 to 3 days and varies based on the locations.

H1B Visa Fees

No country offers emigration visa application without any fee. Same holds true the US. Submitting H1B visa application is not cheap. H1B visa applicants need not worry on the fees as the employers are the ones who are applying and sponsoring the applicants. General H1B visa processing fee include:

  • Standard (Basic Filing) Fee: The standard aka the basic H1B filling fee is charged at USD 460 for the I-129 petition. This basic filling fee is applied to transfer, re-fillings, renewals and amendments. This basic filling fee is applicable at all times when I-129 is being filled.
  • ACWIA (Training) Fee: For employers who have employed 1 to 25 employees, the American competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA) fee is charged at USD 750. For those employers that have 26 or more full time employees, then the applicable ACWIA fee is USD 1,500. Few organizations are exempt from training fees including non-profit organizations with affiliations to educational institutions, primary or secondary educational institutions, Government research organizations and so on.
  • Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee: This fee is applicable at USD 500 to new H1B petitioners and those who are changing employers. This fee is in place to eradicate those who are planning to use H1B visa fraudulently. This fee is not charged if the existing H1B visa is renewed with the same sponsoring employer.
  • Public Law 114-113 Fee: This fee is applicable to those companies that have more than 50 employees with over half on H1B or L1 status. Public Law 114-113 fee is charged at USD 4,000.
  • Optional Fees: This option of premium processing is available for those who want to advance their H1B visa process. Premium service processing is offered by the department of homeland security and the applicants are guaranteed a 15 day processing time frame. To avail this service, you must complete form I-907 along with a fee of USD 1,410. Note that this is an optional fee. Another optional fee is family members apply under H4 dependent visa by filling out form DS-160.
  • Attorney Fees (vary): H1B attorney fee varies based on a lot of parameters.

H1B Visa Cost from India: The above said fees are paid by the sponsoring employer for all applicants regardless of nationality. As for an Indian applicant, you just need to schedule an interview, fill the DS-160 form online and get your visa stamped on the passport, once approved.

H1B Visa Lottery

H1B visa applications are granted on the basis of lottery. The H1B lottery is a computer picked random selection process that the USCIS uses to randomly pick H1B applications received over a year. This lottery process is in place as the number of applications received is way more than the number of approvable H1B visas. If the number of H1B visa applications crosses the annual visa cap, then the USCIC would randomly pick the required number of petitions allotted.

Master’s Degree Applicant Benefits:

If you have completed a master’s degree, then your visa application would first be entered in a lottery pool, which is full of other applicants who too have completed a master’s degree. If the cap on the number of visas is met through that pool, then the remaining master’s degree applicants that were not selected would enter the rest of the lottery pool and would go through the random process of selection again. Hence, if you have completed a master’s degree, then you will two chances of being selected for H1B visa whereas those applicants with only a bachelor’s degree would only enter the regular pool of lottery.

H1B Visa Cap

In the H1B visa caps fiscal year 2019, the capping on the regular H1B visa pool was 65,000 and the cap for master graduate applicants was 65,000. But, the USCIS received 94,213 petitions for the regular pool and 95,885 for the master’s candidates.

As the number of applicants was way more than the cap, there was a lottery process in place for both the pools. This process is expected to be in existence for the upcoming fiscal years as well.

What Happens if You Aren’t Selected?

If you are not selected in the H1B lottery, then the USCIS would return your petition and refund the filling fee. You can resubmit your application the following year and hope to get selected. Note that, there is no preference given to those applicants who are re-applying. All applicants are treated on same lines.

H1B Visa to Green Card

H1B visa holders, who are close to the end of their stay in the US, would be wondering on what to do next. Well, these H1B visa holders can either return to their home country or apply for a green card which allows them permanent residence in the United States.

Unlike most other US visas, the H1B visa is a dual intent visa. It means the visa applicant can apply for the visa with an intention of wanting to reside in the United States on a permanent basis. This allows the H1B holders apply for a green card while being a holder of the H1B visa.

The process of applying for a green card begins with the sponsoring employer who petitions the employee to change status from a visa to green card. They must fill PERM labor certification which is to be approved by the department of labor. 

Post approval of the PERM labor certification, the employer would need to file the immigrant petition for an alien worker, Form I-140. After completing the I-140 form, the applicant would file Form I-485 to update the status of an H1B visa holder to a green card holder. After processing this Form, the applicant would receive the green card and is a permanent resident of the United States of America.

Challenges Faced By H1B Visa Holders

Individuals residing in the United State on H1B visa often find limitations due to their visa status:

Lack Of Employment Mobility: H1B visa holders do not enjoy the freedom of employment mobility as their stay in the United States is sponsored by their employers. Hence, the H1B visa holders run the risk of losing the visa when they lose the job and have to return to their home country. Many visa holders are forced to stay with the job as new paperwork is to be done each time the employer is changed. Finding an employer who is willing to sponsor your visa is difficult.

Receiving a Loan: Often H1B visa holders face difficulty in availing loans in the United States as they either have a limited or no credit history. Most lenders don’t even offer credit to non US applicants, even if they do, it would be at a high interest rate. 

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