What is an H-1B visa?

H-1B visa

The H-1B visa is a U.S. work visa for temporary workers in specialty occupations. It is a nonimmigrant, employer-sponsored visa for roles that require specialized knowledge and usually at least a bachelor’s degree.

The H-1B visa enables U.S. employers to temporarily fill roles with foreign talent when the required skills are not readily available in the U.S. workforce.

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What are the requirements for the H-1B visa? 

The H-1B visa requires a job offer from a U.S. employer in a specialty occupation, and the candidate must have a bachelor’s degree (or higher) in the corresponding field. The employer must demonstrate the necessity of hiring a temporary foreign worker by showing proof that a qualified U.S. candidate was not available to fill the role.

Since the H-1B is an employer-sponsored visa, the employer must file an H-1B visa petition to hire a foreign worker. The employer submits the relevant paperwork to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of Labor and pays the required filing fees.

Once the review process is complete and the petition approved, the worker can then apply for the H-1B visa.

How much are the registration fees for the H-1B visa?

As of April 2023, the cost to register with USCIS for the H-1B lottery is $10. Once an applicant is selected, their employer must file Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker). This form currently costs $460 to file, and it is the employer’s responsibility to pay. 

These costs are subject to change, and there have been discussions of raising the worker’s H-1B registration fee to $215 and the employer’s H-1B petition fee to $780. These price hikes may take effect as early as May 2023. 

What are the chances of being granted an H-1B visa?

Due to high demand, the USCIS limits the number of temporary foreign workers on H-1B visas.

The number of H-1B visas issued each year is capped at 65,000, with an additional 20,000 visas available for workers who have a master’s degree or above. Once employers have submitted their H-1B petitions, the selection process takes place by lottery, with 85,000 candidates being randomly selected from the pool.

Higher education institutions, university-affiliated research institutes, and government research organizations are all exempt from the H-1B visa cap. 

There are also exceptions in place for certain countries with special agreements with the United States, known as the H-1B1 program. Under this program, Chilean applicants have 5,400 spots reserved for H-1B visas that do not count toward the 65,000 visa limit, and Singaporean applicants have 4,500 reserved spots. 

H-1B chances vary by year as the volume of applications is constantly changing. The USCIS received over 483,000 applications for the fiscal year (FY) 2023 and selected over 127,000 registrations, resulting in an approximately 26% approval rate. However, this is down considerably from the over 131,000 registrations selected out of over 308,000 applications for FY 2022, which represented a roughly 42% approval rate.

When does an H-1B visa expire?

In most cases, the H-1B expiration date is 3 years after its issue date. Employers that still need specialized help can then apply for the visa to be extended for an additional 3 years. After the 6-year period, there are a few exceptions that may allow for a visa holder to continue working on their H-1B visa. 

For example, if the employee has a pending I-140 immigrant petition for permanent residency, the employee may renew their H-1B visa in one-year increments until a decision has been reached. Likewise, visa holders who have applied and been approved for permanent residency may extend their H-1B visa for up to 3 additional years (for a total of 9 years) if they are unable to initiate the Green Card process due to an issue with their priority date. 

Employees working on special projects with the United States Department of Defense have a maximum duration of 10 years on their H-1B. Absent any of these exceptions, it is possible for an individual to apply for a new H-1B visa after their initial 6 years, but this requires that they remain outside the U.S. for one year before reapplying.

Does having an H-1B visa improve your chances of getting a Green Card?

Unlike many other nonimmigrant visa types, an H-1B visa is classified as a dual intent visa, which means foreign workers can apply for a change of status if they decide to immigrate permanently. With employer sponsorship, eligible candidates can apply for an employment-based Green Card for permanent residence in the U.S.

While an H-1B visa doesn’t necessarily improve one’s chances of receiving a Green Card, it does offer a pathway to permanent residency that is unavailable with many other visas.

What is the H-1B visa sponsors database?

Each year, hundreds of employers sponsor their employees for H-1B visas. The H-1B visa sponsors database tracks which employers have applied for the visa and how many acceptances and denials they each have. Those hoping to obtain an H-1B visa but who don’t yet have an employment offer can use the database to search for companies that would be likely to sponsor them.

About Oyster

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