Millions around the world plan to enter the USA and join a job that will take their career and life to the next level. They achieve this mostly by getting an H1B visa, which is one of the most popular work visas in the world. Professionals in IT, engineering, finance, architecture, and many others choose to obtain an H1B visa and stay in the USA to live and work in the country.

The benefits of the H1B visa

  • The criteria to be met to qualify for an H1B visa are very few and cover a broad ground considering the qualifications and job requirements required.
  • On the H1B visa, you can stay in the USA for 3 years to start with and the duration can be extended later.
  • If you hold an H1B visa, you can keep your visa status portable as you can shift them from one employer to another. The visa also grants you permission to work on a part-time basis as well as for multiple employers at the same period of time.
  • Any professional from any country can apply for the H1B visa.
  • You can enjoy the status of a lawful permanent resident in the US while on the H1B visa.

H1B visa requirements for eligibility to apply

To be eligible to apply for an H1B visa, you have to meet the following criteria:

  • You must have proof that you have a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in a field of specialized knowledge.
  • You must have a job offer from an employer in the US for a job role that needs specialty knowledge

It’s also required that your US employer show that there’s a lack of US applicants who are qualified for the job role.

Trivia: Do you know that owing to the high demand for H1B visas, a limit (cap) is set on its issue every year. As of now, the cap is 65,000 visas per fiscal year.

Before you are allowed to enter the US on an H1B visa and commence your work at your job, it may be required you register with USCIS and receive a selection to apply for the work visa USA H1B.

As for the cap applied per year, if you have a master’s degree from a US institution, then you could be counted among applicants for an extra 20,000 visas set aside and made available for those who have at least a master’s degree. In case the employer who’s giving you sponsorship happens to be either of the following, then the visa cap does not apply.

  • A nonprofit organization connected to an institute providing higher education
  • An institution of higher education
  • A government research organization

If it’s your desire to file an application for an H1B visa and you are in one of the H1B visa jobs that’s subject to the cap, it will then be necessary for you to electronically register with USCIS so that you can enter a lottery.

For you to get this done, you must create an online account with USCIS. In case you have one already, you will still be required to create a separate account to proceed with the registration process.

Then, you will have to pay a registration fee. You will also need to fill in basic information about your sponsoring company along with a few details about yourself. It’s allowed that an attorney/representative can alternatively create an account and do registration on your behalf.

The period of registration runs only for 14 days each year. In case you don’t register but your job isn’t exempt from the annual cap, you won’t be able to file an application for the H1B visa.

After registration, your current status will be displayed in your USCIS account. In case an attorney/representative has done the filing part for you, they can see your current status in their account.

Status indications

Your status will be one of the following:

  • Submitted: You have submitted a valid registration.
  • Selected: You can now apply for an H1B visa.
  • Not Selected: You weren’t chosen as eligible to apply for an H1B visa.
  • Denied: In case you do your registration for the chance to file an application for an H1B visa with the same employer more than one time, USCIS will treat all your registrations as invalid.
  • Invalidated-Failed Payment: Your payment was not successful even after you registered.

Upon the expiry of the registration period, USCIS will let you know about the status of your selection. It’s necessary that your registration has to be selected in case you want to file an application for an H1B visa. This is so unless you have the eligibility for an exemption. In case you aren’t selected, USCIS will let the information pass to you or your representative once the H1B cap for the year has been reached.

Process of applying for H1B visa

In case you are selected to file an application for the H1B visa, your employer can commence the process by filing a petition on your behalf. For this, your employer must submit an LCA (Labor Condition Application) to the DOL (Dept. of Labor) in order to get a certification.

The LCA is submitted to give confirmation that under your employer you will get the same wage as those workers who are qualified similarly in the same geographic area. It also confirms that your working conditions won’t affect other employees under the employer.

After the LCA gets certified by the DOL, your employer must complete Form I-129. This is the petition for a nonimmigrant worker. Then, both the LCA and the I-129 must be filed to USCIS. Any fees, as well as additional documentation, must also be submitted along with it.

These other documents submitted could include the following:

  • Proof of your education
  • Certificates of any training or documents of professional membership (in case they are relevant)
  • Your resume
  • A letter of confirmation of employment,
  • A letter of support
  • Any fees required to be paid

In case your Form I-129 gets approval, then you can take one of 2 options. Your choice will depend on whether you are in the US already or not.

In case you are inside the US on a different visa category, you have to wait until your H1B visa status turns active after which you can start working.

If you are outside the USA, then you must apply for consular processing. If you want to do this, you must fill out Form DS-160. This will take around 90 minutes. You will also need to make payment of the application fee. Also, you must fix an interview at a US consulate/embassy close to you.

Documents to present at the interview

  • A printout of the Form DS-160’s confirmation page
  • Your valid passport with at least 6 months remaining beyond the period you intended to stay in the US, counted from the date of entry to the country
  • Receipts showing you have made the payment of your application fees
  • Your passport-sized photo (1) that follows the requirements specified by the US State Department
  • A copy of your I-129 petition that’s been approved
  • A copy of your I-797 that’s been approved

When the interview is on, you may have to answer questions about yourself, your experience, the job, your travel history, and your employer.

How should I check the H1B lottery results?

Your eligibility to file for an H1B visa can be checked in your USCIS online account.

Can I speed up the process of my H1B visa?

Yes. There’s a premium processing facility available for the H1B visa. Fill out Form I-907 if you want to make a request to get premium processing. You will have to make payment to USCIS for the filing fee. You can do this while simultaneously filing your petition on Form I-129.

What if you have already filed your petition? Then you can make a request to get premium processing at a later date. You can send your form to the same service center where you sent your original Form I-129.

Can I extend my H1B visa?

H1B visa has a general validity of 3 years. It can usually be extended for not more than 6 years. If you want an extension, your employer will have to once again complete and file Form I-129 on your behalf. This must be done along with any supporting documents, and payment of the filing fee.

Can I transition from the H1B visa to a Green Card?

You must know that the H1B visa is a dual intent visa. This implies that you can file an application for a Green Card.

Can I apply for an H1B visa even if I have no job first?

The H1B visa is an employment-based visa. The US employer will require you to file certain forms. Besides, you will require a job offer prior to your becoming eligible to apply for the H1B visa.

If I am holding an H1B visa, is it possible for my family to come with me?

Yes. It’s possible that your spouse and any children who are unmarried and under the age of 21 accompany you on H4 visas.

For how much time can I stay and work in the USA on an H1B visa?

The normal validity of the H1B visa is 3 years. However, it’s possible for you to extend this validity for not more than 6 years.

If I am holding an H1B visa, is it allowed for my spouse to work?

This is a case-by-case thing. In case your spouse holds an H-4 visa, your spouse may be allowed to file an application for employment authorization. For this, it’s necessary that you are on track as an H1B visa holder to obtain a Green Card.

Are H1B visa holders entitled to a minimum salary?

Yes. It’s necessary that the US employer hiring a foreign worker to one of the H1B visa jobs must possess the documentation that proves and then certifies to the US DOL (Department of Labor) that this employer will pay the H1B employee the prevailing or actual wage, whichever happens to be higher.

The prevailing wage: This is the name given to the salary paid to employees in occupations that are similar in type in the area geographically where the employment is set.

The actual wage: This is what the employer pays employees in occupations of similar type at the location where the intended employment is set.

The employer is also required to certify that hiring the H1B employee is not going to displace any US workers and that it won’t cause any strike or other events of work stoppage in the job given to the H1B applicant going to be employed.

The employer declares all these under penalty of perjury. For this the employer submits to DOL for certification in a form known as LCA (Labor Condition Application).

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