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Sales: 312-922-9035 | Service: 312-964-6499

H-1B Visa for Specialty Occupations

For recruiting highly-skilled foreign nationals to fill specialty positions, especially hard-to-fill science, technology, engineering and mathematics roles

What is the H-1B visa?

The H-1B visa is one of the most sought after work visas in America. U.S. employers who rely on foreign talent to fill highly technical roles often look to the H-1B visa as a sponsorship option. And while hundreds of thousands of cap-subject applications are filed each year, only 85,000 petitions are accepted (20,000 for candidates holding a U.S. Master’s degree or more plus 65,000 for all other candidates).

Who is eligible for H-1B sponsorship?

The H-1B visa is reserved for foreign nationals who work in a specialty occupation that requires a specific skill set and background of specialized knowledge. There is no “specialty occupation” list that’s set in stone, and job roles run the gamut — from computer science, biotechnology and engineering to human resources, education and everything in between.

For the most part, a bachelor’s degree or higher in a field related to the position are required for H-1B visa sponsorship. If a degree was obtained overseas or isn’t from a four-year bachelor’s degree program, an education evaluation must be completed. In some cases, equivalent work experience can be used to substitute for education. Three years of relevant work experience, for example, may be equivalent to one year of study.

To be eligible, the position has to meet or exceed the minimum prevailing wage requirements set by the Department of Labor for the location where your foreign national will be working. If the position requires the employee to work off-site, you’ll likely have to provide additional documentation.

How long does an H-1B visa last?

The initial period of stay for an H-1B visa holder in the U.S. can be up to three years. After that, the visa holder can apply for a renewal, which extends the stay by up to three more years, making the total stay for an H-1B visa holder six years. One option for H-1B visa holders to extend their status beyond the six-year max-out date is when they have completed select parts of their green card application process.

Is the H-1B a dual-intent visa?

H-1B visas are dual intent visas, meaning it’s possible to apply for a green card while under H-1B status. H-1B holders should begin the green card application process as soon as possible because sometimes the green card process can take multiple years to complete.

How much does an H-1B visa cost?

The filing fee that goes along with your H-1B application can range anywhere from $460 to $2,460, depending on your company and situation. And that doesn’t include any Premium Processing fees or H-1B “super-dependent” fees. Employers can choose to pay a $1,225 Premium Processing fee, and USCIS will take action on the pending H-1B application within 15 calendar days. In addition, if your company employs 50 or more employees and more than 50 percent of their employees are in H-1B or L-1 status, you will be required to pay an additional $4,000 fee.

H-1B Labor Condition Application (LCA)

Before filing for an H-1B visa, you have to first file an LCA and receive a certification by the Department of Labor sometime before March 31, which means the LCA must be filed on or before March 23. With that in mind, our affiliated attorneys recommend submitting LCA’s by March 15 for additional peace of mind. This is a major compliance piece for employers, as it identifies a fair wage for the prospective employee as well as fair working conditions and ensures that there’s no strike taking place at the time of filing. It’s essential that you comply with the conditions certified in your LCA throughout the duration of the H-1B visa, or you could face penalties.

Cap-subject H-1B visa lottery

First-time H-1B applicants are subject to the annual visa lottery, which opens in April. Each year, 65,000 visas are issued and an additional 20,000 are reserved for applicants with master’s degrees. H-1B petitioners employed at an institution of higher education or certain nonprofit/government research entities are not subject to the cap and can obtain an unlimited number of H-1B visas. If the H-1B petition is accepted for processing and approved, the foreign national can start working on October 1.

H-4 visa for dependents of H-1B holders

With the H-4 nonimmigrant visa program, once an employee is awarded H-1B status, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may live in the U.S. where they are allowed to study and some are entitled to a work authorization. Since 2015, over 40,000 spouses of H-1B visa holders waiting for green cards have been eligible to work in the U.S. on H-4 dependent visas. Amidst a flurry of recent immigration news, the Trump administration announced plans to stop issuing work permits to spouses of H-1B visa holders who possess an I-140 approval, overturning a 2015 rule issued by the Obama administration. As of now, nothing has been confirmed. The deadline for decision is January 2, 2018.

Cap-exempt H-1B employers

In order to qualify for an exemption from the H-1B cap, the sponsored position must be one of the following:

  • Institutions of higher education
  • Non-profit research organizations
  • Government research organizations
  • Primary or secondary education institutions
  • Non-profit entities that engage in established curriculum-related clinical training
Other examples where cap-exemption applies: petitions for a second extension with the same employer, amendment petitions with no request for extension and corrections of service errors.

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