What You Need to Know About the H-1B Visa

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The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant work visa for highly-specialized jobs in the United States. While the law does not specify what this job must be, the work must require significant knowledge of theory and practical application of a particular field.

Below we’ve highlighted additional aspects of the H-1B visa that you need to know about before applying.

H-1B Employment

Most jobs that qualify for H-1B status require a bachelor’s degree or that occupation’s equivalent credentials, such as a special certification. These jobs include research, education, medicine, mathematics, engineering, business and the arts. Many foreign workers applying for H-1B work for universities and affiliated research institutions, such as teaching biochemistry at Harvard University.

H-1B visa holders are authorized to work for one sponsoring employer, although the specific job performed may be changed from time to time. For example, if you are a full-time teacher of mathematics and you change to researching computer science full-time, you do not need to adjust your visa as long as you are affiliated with the same institution.

Upon quitting or being dismissed from your sponsoring organization, you must apply for a different non-immigrant status, find another employer and apply for an adjustment or leave the United States.

H-1B Issuing and Duration

Currently, the law states that only 65,000 H-1B visas are allowed to be issued every US fiscal year. However, there are exemptions for up to 20,000 foreign nationals with a master’s degree or higher earned from a university in the United States. The law also provides exemptions for any employees working at universities, non-profit research facilities or government jobs.

All of these provisions mean that far more than 65,000 H-1B visas are granted every year, with 135,991 being issued in 2012.

Each H-1B visa lasts three years, but can be extended to six years. The visa can be renewed while filing an I-140 immigrant petition or waiting on a pending result for one. The maximum duration on one H-1B is ten years, but that period is usually only offered for important work related to the US Department of Defense.

H-1B Application Process

Typically, the process starts when an employer offers you a job. They will also file with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services department.

At this point, you should fill out your own application using form DS160, which can be found online. You will need to schedule two appointments afterward using the ten digit code, which will be provided when you complete the form. One appointment will consist of completing information such as a photograph and a fingerprint, and the second appointment will be a personal interview regarding your work intentions.

Once you submit your DS160 form, you will receive an estimation of current processing times. Recently, completing the H-1B application process with no setbacks took an average of two months. If you are unable to get an appointment during your estimated processing time, you can contact Immigration Services and request a new estimation, which typically takes 30 to 45 more days.

Once you have received a job offer and initiated the H-1B application, the entire process of receiving your visa will take at least two to three months. To anticipate this duration, you should begin applying as early as four months ahead in order to make sure you will be able to attend your job on schedule.

H-1B and US Drivers Licenses

If your job or living situation requires that you get a valid U.S. driver’s license, you will have to wait until you have receipt of your visa to prove your legal status, as well as proof of your new residency. Both of these requirements mean that you will not be able to obtain your license until after you have moved and have proof of address, such as a utility bill.

For more information on the H-1B Visa, contact Lightman Law Firm at (212) 643-0985 or submit a consultation request online. Also visit our H-1B visa section for more details.