H-1B Visa

citizenship questions

What is H-1B status?

H-1B status is a nonimmigrant status for workers in "specialty occupations," which are jobs that require the specific knowledge and skill ordinarily shown by a four-year college degree.  Some examples of a H1B caliber position would be lawyer, engineer, and accountant.

Who is eligible to apply for H-1B status?

To get H-1B status you must have a four-year college degree or the equivalent in education and experience.  In addition, the degree you hold must be a customary requirement for the job that you have been offered.  You may have obtained your education either here or abroad, but your qualifications MUST be evaluated by a licensed credential evaluation service in the US to make sure that the foreign degree is equivalent to a US bachelors degree. 

How do I apply to extend my H-1B status?

Your employer may apply for an extension of stay by filing a new H-1B petition.  Your employer must file the extension request before your H-1B expires.  You may continue working for your employer while waiting for the USCIS extension approval. 

Who can petition for H-1B status?

Your U.S. employer must petition for you, you cannot petition for yourself.  An H-1B employer can be an individual, a partnership, or a corporation.  The employer must be willing to pay the prevailing wage for the occupation as determined by the Department of Labor.

How long can I be in H-1B status?

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will approve an H-1B petition in intervals of up to three years at a time, to a maximum of six years.  USCIS may extend your H-1B status beyond six years in one-year intervals, if your employer began the employment based green card process more than one year before the expiration of the sixth year.  If you do not qualify for an extension beyond the sixth year, and no other non immigrant status is available to you it is possible to get a fresh three year period of H1B status AFTER spending a year outside the US.

How many people can obtain H-1B status each year?

The law sets an annual limit of 65,000 foreign nationals who can receive H-1B status during the USCIS fiscal year.  An additional 20,000 foreign nationals holding advanced degrees (masters or higher) can receive H1-B status.  That limit is usually reached quickly after April 1st, the first day to apply.  The fiscal year begins October 1, but USCIS accepts applications six months in advance.  When the limit is reached, no more new applicants can get H-1B status until the next fiscal year.

Only new applicants are counted against the H-1B cap.  Extension applicants or applicants who change jobs are excluded from the cap.  Also excluded are employees of institutions of higher education and affiliated nonprofit entities and nonprofit or governmental research organizations.  If excluded from the cap, you can get H-1B status even after the limit is reached.

What about my spouse and children?

If you get H-1B status, your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may apply for H-4 status.  If they are legally in the United States, they may change to H-4 status by filing USCIS Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

Who pays the lawyer fees for getting an H-1B status?

A U.S. Department of Labor rule requires that the employer pay the legal fees and costs that are necessary for a worker to get the H-1B status.

What if I change employers?

H-1B status is employer-specific.  That means that you can only work for the employer specified in the H1B application. When you stop working for the H-1B employer you are out of status as of the last day of employment.  If you want to change employers, the new employer must petition for you before you terminate employment with the prior employer.  You do not need to wait for approval of the H1B petition before commencing work with the new employer; it need only be FILED before the employee stops working with the old employer.

What if I want to work for two employers?

If you want to work for more than one employer at the same time, each employer must have an H-1B petition approved for you.  It is possible to file a H1B petition for a part time position