What is the H-1B Visa Programme

Back in 1990, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) established the H-1B visa. The H-1B visa programme is used by US businesses to employ foreign workers in occupations that require highly specialised knowledge in fields such as science, engineering and computer programming. The congressionally mandated cap on H-1B visas is currently 65,000 for each fiscal year.

However, the first 20,000 H-1B petitions filed for individuals with a USA Master’s degree or higher equivalent qualification are exempt from the 65,000 cap. Anyone hoping to receive a visa through this programme, though, will have to be quick as the limit is often reached within days of the new submission period.

As ever, USCIS is preparing to receive far more petitions than the H-1B cap allows during the first five business days of this year’s programme. The agency will monitor the number of petitions received and notify the public when the H-1B cap has been met.

If USCIS receives an excess of petitions during the first five business days, the agency will use a lottery system to randomly select the number of petitions required to meet the cap.

USCIS will reject all unselected petitions that are subject to the cap as well as any petitions received after the cap has closed. The lottery was used for the FY 2015 programme last April.

USA Passport & Visa

For how long is an H-1B valid?

The validity period for an H-1B visa is three years but this can be extended for up to 6 years, though extensions can also vary depending on the type of work in question. For example, certain jobs within the US government can be extended for up to 10 years.

Should you face dismissal from the employer that sponsors your visa, you will be required to find a new employer within 60 days and submit new paperwork or risk deportation. If you do face deportation, your employer is required to cover your travel expenses. Even after you’ve been deported, if a US company offers to hire you in the future, you may re-apply for the H-1B visa again.

Does an H-1B visa include US citizenship for family members?

Family members of an H-1B visa holder are also permitted to live in the US during the relevant length of stay. Permitted family members include spouses and children under the age of 21. These family members must complete a h4 visa application, which can be submitted in conjunction with the H-1B visa application.

What are the requirements for a H-1B visa?

To be eligible for a H-1B visa, there are a number of requirements which must be met. Some of the visa requirements are as follows:

  • Holding a bachelors or master’s degree
  • The degree is relevant to the job in question
  • The work must require specialist knowledge
  • Applicant must be highly knowledgeable in that field
  • An employer must evidence lack of qualified US applicants

How to apply for an H-1B visa

There are multiple steps involved when applying for an H-1B visa. The first step is to find a US employer who will sponsor your visa application. As a result, you must state clearly during the job application process that you require sponsorship to enter the US.

Once you have been hired, your employer must submit a Labour Conditions Approval (LCA) to the Department of Labour (DOL). The purpose of an LCA is to provide the DOL with details of your job, such as salary and location.

Once the LCA has been approved by the DOL, your employer must then submit a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129.

Within the Form I-129, the employer discloses fees, education, CV and professional certificates of the applicant, along with an employment agreement and letter of support. The processing of the Form I-129 can sometimes take up to 3-4 months. However, for an additional fee, the process can be fast tracked.

Once the Form I-129 has been approved, the final stage is for the applicant to process the visa via the US embassy within their country of origin. The timescale for completion is often around 2 to 3 days, though this can vary from country to country.

What are the fees for an H-1B visa?

Whilst applying for an H-1B visa can become quite costly, usually expenses are covered by the employer sponsoring your visa application. There is a USD 300 base fee, American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA) fees which includes USD 750 for companies with 25 or less full-time employees and USD 1,500 for 26 or more employees.  There is also a USD 500 fraud detection fee and an optional USD 1,225 premium processing fee.