The H-1B visa category is for temporary workers in a “specialty occupation,” which is a position that normally requires a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in a specific degree field or one of a closely-related group of degree fields.
Well-known H-1B occupations include engineers, scientists, computer programmers and analysts, database administrators, lawyers, teachers, professors, and accountants.
Other types of occupations may also qualify, including various marketing and managerial positions, supply chain and logistics specialists, IT project managers, cost estimators, game developers, doctors, and even some nursing positions.
Basic Eligibility Requirements: The position must be one that normally requires a degree or its equivalent. The H-1B candidate must hold at least the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in an appropriate degree field. In the absence of a U.S. bachelor’s degree, the candidate’s non-U.S. educational credentials and/or work experience may be evaluated to confirm equivalence to at least a U.S. bachelor’s degree. The petitioner and H-1B worker must be in an employer-employee relationship.
Validity Period: Up to 3 years initially, extendable for another 3 years, for a total of 6 years in H-1B status unless the individual has reached certain milestones in the permanent residency process. Time spent in H-1B status for another employer or in L-1 status counts against the 6-year limit on H-1B eligibility.
Employment Status: Full-time or part-time employee. An employer-employee relationship is required. An H-1B worker may work for more than one employer but must have an approved H-1B petition with each employer.
Limitations on Work Authorization: H-1B employment is generally employer-specific, job-specific, and location-specific. Changes in employer or work location, or material changes in job duties, require an amended petition filing.
Basic Employer Obligations: Employers must file a Labor Condition Application attesting to payment of the “required wage rate” and that employment of the H-1B worker will not adversely impact the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers, must post notice of the H-1B filing to its workforce, must certify that the employer will not expose the worker to controlled technology without the appropriate export controls license, and must agree to pay the return cost of transportation to the H-1B worker’s country of last foreign residence if the H-1B worker is dismissed before the H-1B petition expires.
Government Filing Fees: Effective December 23, 2017, $460 Filing Fee, $500 Fraud Prevention & Detection Fee (for initial petitions), $1,500/$750 Employment Training Fee (for initial petitions and first extensions).
Eligibility for Premium Processing: Yes. H-1B petitions are eligible for premium processing. The CIS charges an additional $1,225 government filing fee for premium processing. In exchange, the CIS guarantees action on the petition within 15 calendar days of receipt of the request for premium processing.
Quota/Cap: The number of H-1B visas available each fiscal year (October 1 to September 30) is only 65,000, plus up to 20,000 additional numbers for individual’s with a Master’s or higher degree from a U.S. university. These quotas are called the “H-1B cap” and the “Master’s cap.”
Cap Exemptions: While most employers are subject to the cap, in certain situations the employer is considered exempt from the cap. Institutions of higher education, non-profit entities related to or affiliated with an institution of higher education, and non-profit and government research organizations are exempt. Also, if the foreign worker currently holds or has held H-1B status in the past, he may also be exempt. Movement from a cap-exempt employer to a cap-subject employer generally requires an H-1B number under the cap.
Dependents: Spouses and unmarried children under 21 are eligible for H-4 dependent visa status. They are not allowed to work unless they obtain an independent visa or status that authorizes employment. H-4 spouses may apply for work authorization only if their H-1B spouses have an approved I-140 Immigrant Visa Petition or have reached certain other milestones in the permanent residency process. H-4 dependents may attend school.