What is H1-B?
- H1-B is a temporary non-immigrant worker's visa. It allows foreign skilled professionals in specialty occupations to work in US. The US employer is the petitioner and the foreign worker (you) is (are) the beneficiary.
How long will the H1-B be valid?
- The initial petition can be any period less than 3 years.
- After that, your employer can petition for extension for another 3 years.
- As a general rule, you cannot be on H1-B for more than 6 years conservatively. You have to leave the US for one year to apply for new H1-B after 6 years.
- But if your employer sponsors you for green card, you may be able to extend the H1B beyond 6 years while the petition is pending.
What are the major requirements for an H1-B employee?
- Have a US employer - as a beneficiary, you cannot sign the petition and your employer is the only one who can petition for you;
- Have a bachelor's degree or its equivalent;
- The job is a specialty occupation;
- Your degree and the job matches. E.g. you can be an accountant with an accounting degree. But if your employer petitions you as a photographer with an accounting degree, it is highly likely that the petition will be denied.
Is there a quota for H1-B? What is "lottery"?
- Yes, there is a quota. Every year, there is a cap - 65,000 for the general category and 20,000 under the advanced degree (US master) exemption limit.
- If there are more petitions than the cap, USCIS uses a computer-generated random selection process (commonly known as a "lottery" to select a sufficient number of petitions needed to meet the cap. For cap-subject petitions not randomly selected, USCIS will reject and return the petition with filing fees.
- If you have a US master, you have two chances. First is the lottery under the advanced degree cap. If you are not selected, you can have the second lottery under the general category.
- If you have a bachelor's degree, you have only one chance under the general category.
What is the application process?
- Step 1 - sign the contract with the firm and prepare the documents / information on the preparation list.
- Step 2 - the firm submits Labor Condition Application to Department of Labor for certification.
- Step 3 - the firm submits petition package to the USCIS.
How long will it take?
- Step 1 - depends.
- Step 2 - 7 business days. But if the employer never sponsors H1-B holder before, it takes additional 7 business days to verify the EIN and costs 14 business days in total.
- Step 3 - 2 to 3 months for USCIS to review the case. Individual case processing time varies. Also, with premium processing, the USCIS makes a decision within 15 calendar days.
How much will it cost?
- Legal fees depends on the facts of you individual case.
- Government fee:
- Step 1: N/A
- Step 2: free
- Step 3:
- Base filing fee $535
- Fraud detection fee $500
- ACWIA $750 if the employer has no more than 25 full-time employees ($1500 if more than 25 employees)
- Public Law $2000 if the employer employees more than 50 employees in US and more than 50% are H1-B or L1 visa holders
- Optional premium processing fee $1,410.
(Last updated on February 14th, 2019)