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H-1B Visa (US employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations.)

What is an H-1B visa for USA?

  • A temporary work visa for the US
  • Lottery-based selection
  • For US companies that want to hire foreign nationals
  • Jobs under H-1B usually need a university degree
  • Valid for three years, can be extended one time for three more years
  • Maximum stay in the US on H-1B is six years
  • Can lead to US Green Card
A temporary or non-immigrant visa, the H-1B allows foreign nationals temporary entry into the country to take up employment in any of the specialty occupations. A lottery selection is made, subject to a cap or annual limit on the H-1B visas to be granted in a financial year.

It is through the H-1B visa pathway that US companies get to hire foreign nationals that possess the required knowledge – technical or theoretical – in a specialty occupation.

Getting US tech companies the global talent that they need, the H-1B is widely used to hire overseas-born individuals in various fields, especially STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

How long is the H-1B visa valid for USA?

  • Valid for three years
  • Can get it extended one time
  • Extension for another three years
  • Maximum six years’ stay
Initially valid for three years, an H-1B visa can be extended – for one time – for an additional three years. The maximum that you can live and work in the US on an H-1B visa is six years.

What are the H-1B visa requirements?

In the H-1B visa application process, there will be a petitioner, and a beneficiary. The petitioner will be the US employer who will be filing the H-1B petition on behalf of the foreign employee that they want to bring to the US to work for them. The beneficiary will be that employee.

To be eligible for a H-1B visa for the US, the beneficiary will have to meet at least one of the following requirements –
  • A Bachelor’s degree or higher, completed from an accredited university, in the same field as their specialty occupation.
  • A foreign degree, equivalent to a Bachelor’s or above, in the same field as their specialty occupation.
  • Registration or certification in the specialty field in the intended employment state.
  • Recognized and verifiable education, training, and experience in the specialty at the level of a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

What is the H-1B visa process?

  • Petitioner, the US employer
  • Beneficiary, the foreign employee
To begin with, a petition will have to be filed by the US employer on behalf of the foreign worker. From 2020, USCIS has an electronic registration process for the H-1B cap-subject visas. To be considered by USCIS, a cap-subject H-1B petition must be based on a valid, selected registration, for the same beneficiary, and for the relevant financial year.

The employer will have to get a Labor Condition Application (LCA) certificate from the Department of Labor (DOL) of the US government. A completed Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, will have to be filed by the employer with the appropriate USCIS service center.

The DOL-certified LCA will have to be submitted along with Form I-129 (only applicable for specialty occupations and fashion models). After the approval of the Form I-129 petition, the prospective H-1B worker will be required to apply for an H-1B visa at a US Embassy or Consulate.

Following this, the foreign worker will have to apply to the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for being admitted into the US with H-1B status.

Who is eligible for the H-1B visa category?

  • Skilled workers in specialty occupations
  • Fashion models
  • Researcher and development project worker.
While better known for offering a route to work overseas in the US for skilled foreign workers, the H-1B is not just for specialty workers.

The US nonimmigrant classification of H-1B is applicable to individuals that intend to perform services :
  1. in a specialty occupation,
  2. services of exceptional ability and merit related to a Department of Defense (DOD) cooperative research and development project, or
  3. services as a fashion model (with distinguished merit or ability.

The H-1B3 category is for fashion models. To be eligible for the H-1B3 visa for the US, you must be a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability. In short, a fashion model of prominence. The H-1B2, on the other hand, is for DOD Researchers and Development Project Workers. To be eligible, a Bachelor’s or higher degree or the equivalent of the same – in the occupational field that you will be performing services in – will be required.

What is a “specialty occupation”?

  • Highly specialized knowledge
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Specialized and complex nature
  • Recognition of expertise
To be considered as a specialty occupation, the occupation must require theoretical as well as practical application of a body of highly-specialized knowledge. Generally, a minimum educational qualification of Bachelor’s degree or above will be needed for entry into that occupation in the US.

Moreover, the degree specifically required to take up that specialty occupation in the US must be the same in the industry, that is, in parallel positions among similar organizations.

The job to be done by the H-1B worker must be complex and unique so that it can be done only by a university degree holder. The foreign degree held by the individual should be equivalent to a US bachelor’s or higher degree needed for the specialty occupation from an accredited college or university.

Additionally, the individual must hold the required registration or certification authorizing them to fully practice the specialty occupation and be working in that specialty as intended by their US employer. The recognition of the expertise of the individual can be assessed by their having held progressively responsible positions directed related to that very specialty occupation.

What jobs come under specialty occupations for the H-1B?

  • Theoretical or technical expertise needed
  • Must be a graduate-level job
H-1B specialty occupations might include – the arts, business specialties, accounting, physical sciences, education, engineering, mathematics, social sciences, theology, law, medicine and health, and architecture. H-1B visas are available for different types of specialty occupations that need expertise – theoretical or technical – in specialized fields.

Simply put, any job available in the American labor market might come under the H-1B requirement, provided it requires a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree. To be eligible for the H-1B visa, the nature of the specific duties must be so specialized and complex that they could only be done by someone with a bachelor’s or higher degree.
For the H-1B, specialty occupations might be, among others –
  • Engineers
  • Architects
  • Nurses
  • System analysts
  • IT/computer professionals
  • Accountants
  • Financial analysts
  • Healthcare workers
  • Management consultants
  • Scientists
  • Dentists
  • Physicians
  • Surgeons
  • Dentists
  • Psychologists
  • Foreign law advisors
  • Journalists and editors
  • Market research analysts
The above-mentioned are only some of the US jobs that come under specialty occupations. Any position, as long as it meets the qualifications requiring specialization, can come under the classification.

Can I get US Green Card through H-1B?

If you are in the US on an H-1B visa and wish to transition onto a US Green Card – officially referred to as the Permanent Resident Card – you might be able to perpetually extend your H-1B status in the US. For this, you will have to file for an EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 (employment-based) visa before the end of your fifth year in the US on H-1B status.

You may be eligible to apply for a US Green Card (permanent residency) while holding an H-1B visa. However, you must apply for the Green Card by the end of the second year of your H-1B extension.

Do note that only the time actually spent by the worker in the US with H-1B status will be counted towards the six years. Any time spent by the individual outside the US will not be counted, even if exit and subsequent entry into the United States has been made while on H-1B status.

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