The H-1B Visa: What You Need To Know If You Want To Work In The US

Do you have specialized skills and want to come to the US as a foreign worker?

It’s that time again; every spring hundreds of thousands of people apply for an H-1B Visa in order to come and work in the United States.  In 2016 USCIS received a whopping 233,000 petitions for H-1B Visa during the filing period, which begins April 1. Out of those 233,ooo people only 85,000 are picked randomly. As you can see, odds are stacked against you, but here is what you need to know to improve your chances.

Why should you apply for an H-1B Visa?

Applying for a non-immigrant visa is generally quicker than applying for a Green Card, therefore the H-1B Visa is popular for companies wishing to bring in staff for long-term assignment in the US. H-1B Visa holders also have additional benefits for their immediate family (see below).

What is an H-1B Visa?

An H-1B Visa is a temporary work visa that can last anywhere from 3-6 years. A company must sponsor you…it is not something you can apply for on your own. H-1B Visas are to help US companies attract and employ workers in specialized fields or with specialized skills. USCIS cap these visas at 20,000 for those with a masters degree or higher, and 65,000 for “regular” quota. There are also some fields or businesses that are cap-exempt. Visas are chosen by lottery every April for the following fiscal year (from October 1- Sept 30)

Who Can Get An H-1B Visa?

  • Anyone with a bachelor’s degree or higher that has been offered a position in the US and has the paperwork to prove it.
  • The position you have been offered is considered specialized and you have the degree, training and/or experience to perform the job.
  • You can prove you will receive a work appropriate wage for the job you will be doing.
  • The H1 B visa has specific spaces set aside for those with a masters degree or higher education, and as per a free trade agreement, non-immigrants from Chile and Singapore.
  • There are also thousands of “cap exempt” jobs in the United States.

What is a cap-exempt employer?

Examples of cap exempt employers are non profit institutes and research facilities, universities and colleges, and government research facilities. It is important to note that contractors working at these facilities but not necessarily for them, may be exempt as well. Obviously there are many opportunities available in one of these instances.

Can family members come under my H-1B Visa too?

Yes! Under U.S. immigration law, an H-1B worker’s spouse and children can accompany the worker to the U.S. by obtaining H-4 Visas. Each family member would have to apply for their own separate H-4 Visa. As an added bonus, family members of H-1B Visa holders can study at any university in the US without applying for an additional F-1 student visa. More excitingly, as of 2015, in some cases the H-1B holders spouse may also be able to work too.

What do I do if I lose the H-1B Visa lottery?

Don’t despair! Call a top immigration lawyer as they will know other avenues to get you into the United States. While an H-1B Visa can be one of the fastest ways to get approved, it is by no means the only one. Employment-based, or work-based green cards can be a better option for many people.

If you have any questions on H-1B Visas, or any other employment related questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.




Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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