The H-1B visa is a non-immigration visa awarded by the U.S. to foreign-born workers in specialty occupations who wish to work in this country. As experienced H-1B visa attorneys, we can tell you that this particular visa is not easy to get. It requires specific qualifications. It also has specific term limits.
For all intents and purposes, H-1B visas are only granted to foreign workers employed in what is considered a specialty occupation. This type of occupation is one that requires professional-level training and knowledge demonstrated through either a college degree or equivalent work experience. Software development and cyber security would be two prime examples.
Time Limits: H-1B Duration
Because the H-1B visa is a non-immigration visa, it does have a time limit attached to it. The standard duration is a six-year term. The initial H-1B petition is typically approved for a three-year period and can be extended for an additional three years.
Applying for an extension requires the worker’s employer to file a new H-1B petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). The same eligibility requirements would apply, and similar documents would have to be furnished. Employers can generally handle it on their own. However, working with an experienced H-1B visa attorney can mean the difference between a streamlined process and delays, not to mention the possibility of denial.
Reapplying After Six Years
Under certain circumstances, USCIS will grant subsequent extensions. As such, H-1B visa holders wishing to stay beyond six years need to apply for a new visa before the current one expires. Unfortunately, federal law limits the number of H-1B visas issued every year. Visas are awarded on a lottery basis. This means there are no guarantees that a current visa holder applying for a new visa to continue their stay will be successful.
The USCIS also gives preference to those workers with master’s degrees. Almost one-third of all H-1B visas are set aside for them. A current visa holder with a bachelor’s degree can help their own cause by working toward a master’s degree even while employed full-time here. These individuals qualify for the 20,000 set-aside for those with advanced U.S. degrees, which means their chances of selection in the annual lottery is notably higher.
Applicants Must Be Sponsored
All initial and H-1B extension applications must be filed on behalf of the foreign worker by a U.S. based employer. The employer essentially sponsors the worker. Sponsorship includes verifying the worker’s job and agreeing to take at least some measure of responsibility for the worker as long as they remain in the country.
We recommend planning ahead regardless of whether you are an employee looking to bring foreign workers here or a foreign-born worker hoping to come here to work. The sooner you start the process, the better it will be. Waiting until the last minute only creates opportunities to get bogged down in all the red tape.
An Attorney Makes Things Easier
Although the H-1B visa itself is not complicated, the process for applying can be. There are deadlines to pay attention to. There are numerous documents that need to be completed accurately and submitted to the right departments. It only takes one mistake to see an application mired in bureaucracy.
We say all this to recommend working with an experienced immigration attorney rather than going it alone. An attorney makes things easier by guiding applicants through the process step-by-step. Attorneys can answer questions, double check paperwork, and give recommendations as to how to complete the process with as few issues as possible.
Navigate the process correctly and obtaining an H-1B visa becomes very possible. Remember, the standard duration of an initial H-1B is three years. Extending it to six years is usually not a problem if an employer is willing to continue sponsoring you.