What is an H-1B visa?

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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.

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.

What is the H-1B visa cap?

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.

There is, however, an exception for higher education institutions, university-affiliated research institutes, and government research organizations, which are exempt from the H-1B visa cap.

How long is an H-1B visa valid?

The H-1B visa is initially issued for three years, but can be extended for an additional three years.

Although the H-1B is a nonimmigrant visa, it 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.

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