Overview of H-1B Visa for Specialty Occupation Workers
The H-1B visa is one of the most popular employment-based visas for individuals who wish to obtain a temporary visa to work in the United States. An H-1B work visa allows individuals who are offered a position with a U.S. employer to work for that employer for a limited number of years. The term “Specialty Occupation” is defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act as an occupation that requires a “theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge; and… attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States.”
H-1B Visa Requirements
Generally, to be eligible for an H1B visa, the following criteria should be met:
- Employer offer employment to the foreign national;
- The H1B job position requires theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge that could only be attained by a specific course of study.
- The foreign national possesses a U.S. Bachelor’s degree or higher, or work experience that is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree directly related to the offered position;
- Employer/H-1B sponsor will pay the foreign national the higher of the prevailing wage or actual wage.
H-1B Visa Cap
Obtaining an H-1B Visa can be a competitive process as the Congress only makes an annual fiscal year limitation (H-1B cap) of 65,000 visas available for applicants that possess a Bachelor’s Degree and an additional 20,000 Visas for those who have a U.S. Masters or higher Degree. The first date of H-1B filing each year is April 1st or the next working day if April 1st falls on the weekend or holiday. As in the last few years, there was approximately twice or triple the amount of H-1B applications submitted within the first two days of the filing date. In contrast, 2010 the H-1B Cap did not fill up until January 26, 2011. USCIS collects cap subject H-1b petitions the first 5 business days of April and then runs a random lottery on those petitions, assuming more than 65,000 regular cap and 20,000 US masters cap H-1b petitions are received in those first 5 business days of April. Petitions accepted in the lottery are adjudicated while those not accepted in the lottery are returned.
H-1B Visa Cap Exemption
Not all H-1B petitions are subject to the H-1B cap. As noted by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), these cap-exempt categories may be filed at any time during the fiscal year and they commonly include:
- Institutions of higher education;
- Related or affiliated not-for-profit entities;
- Not-for-profit research organizations or governmental research organizations.
Examples of H-1B specialty occupations
- Business Managers
- Computer Scientists
- Computer Systems Analysts
- Mechanical Engineers
- Software Developers & Software Engineers
- Social Workers
Validity of H-1B Visa
The H-1B visa is generally valid for up to 3 years and may be renewed for another 3 years. The maximum number of years an individual may remain with this status is six years. Time spent outside the US may be recaptured.
You may be interested in the following pages:
- H-1B Specialty Occupation requirements
- H-1B employee qualifications
- H-1B Cap
- F-1 to H-1B
- H-1B Extension
- H-1B Transfer