What Is the H-1B Visa?

  • Apr 10 2017

The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa. It allows United States companies to employ certain higher-level workers and specialty occupations. These positions often fall in the following fields:

  • Information technology
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Medicine
  • Engineering
  • Science
  • Mathematics
  • Architecture

Appropriate areas for the H-1B visa usually require a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Some may call for professional degrees as well. However, if the applicant does not have the necessary schooling, he or she can still apply and indicate that they have a degree equivalent in experience or other qualifications. Nonetheless, applicants that do not have the required education often will not be successful because of the H-1B visa cap that is applicable each year.

Benefits of the H1-B Visa

The H-1B visa applies for up to six years, with the option to renew it after three years. It is often faster than applying for a US green card, which is why is popular among companies who want to bring in employees for long-term assignments in the United States. However, the cap on the number of workers that can use this visa often requires employers and immigrants to look elsewhere for visas.

H1-B visa holders can bring their families to the United States as long as they can all be classified as dependents. Only children under the age of 21 are considered dependent. Dependents of the H1-B visa holders will have an H4 Visa, which allows them to attend school, open a bank account, and obtain a driver’s license. However, there are often restrictions on their ability to work.

Qualifications for the H1-B Visa

Workers who qualify for the H1-B must have certain education or experience requirements and to be engaged in a “specialty occupation.” The occupation qualifies if it meets one of the following criteria:

  1. The employer requires a degree or equivalency for the position.
  2. The general requirement for the industry is a Bachelor’s degree or higher.
  3. The degree requirement is common in the industry, or the job is sufficiently complex or unique that it would require such a degree.
  4. The job is so specific, specialized, or complex that the knowledge needed to perform the job is generally associated with a Bachelor’s degree or higher.

While the H1-B Visa is not limited to a particular industry, the requirements often restrict its use to “professional” positions.

The H1-B Visa Cap

There is an annual H1-B cap that varies each fiscal year. United States employers begin applying for this visa six months before the actual application start date. In 2017, for example, the application process has begun as of April 2, 2017, for the 2018 fiscal year. That means that workers who are approved in this round can start work on October 1, 2017.

As of right now, current immigration laws allow 85,000 new H-1B visas each fiscal year. Of those, 20,000 visas are earmarked for workers who have advanced degrees from a United States institution. The cap is generally already reached by the beginning of April each year. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services then holds a lottery for the remaining slots.

An immigration law attorney can help you work through your options with an H1-B or an alternative. Contact us today.

Posted in: Immigration Law