Immigration Answers: The H-1B Visa
With the number of skilled foreign workers growing at an extraordinary
pace, more and more people are looking to come to the US through employment-based
immigration opportunities. One of the most common of these opportunities
is the H-1B visa. The H-1B is a unique category that allows skilled foreign
workers to arrive and work in the United States and in some cases begin
the journey towards eventual citizenship. However, with deadlines quickly
approaching, anyone interested in applying for an H-1B needs to start
making arrangements immediately.
H-1B visas are reserved for individuals that are employed within a "specialty
occupation." An applicant must show that he/she has obtained at least
a bachelor's degree (or foreign equivalent) and must have a job offer
from for a United States employer. The most common H-1B applicants are
those working in the medical, engineering and high-tech fields, although
almost all employment areas are eligible. By offering an H-1B applicant
employment, the US employer must certify that the applicant will be paid
a fair wage and that the applicant will only work in the position specified
in the submitted application.
The H-1B is attractive for many reasons. Although the length of an H-1B
is dependent upon the specific requirements of the job, most H-1B visas
are available for 3 years and can be extended for up to 6 years; in limited
circumstances, the H-1B can be extended beyond the 6 year time frame.
H-1B recipients are also allowed to bring their spouses and underage children
to the US once they are granted H-1B status (these family members will
be considered "H-4 visa holders"). Although H-4 recipients cannot
obtain employment for themselves, they can remain in the US during with
the H-1B holder. Additionally, an H-1B recipient can travel in and out
of the country, therefore allowing them to return to their home country
should they need to do so.
The number of H-1B visas available each fiscal year is capped. Congress
has limited the number of available H-1B visas to 65,000 (the "Cap"),
all of which are typically distributed within a few weeks after USCIS
(US Citizenship and Immigration Service) begins accepting applications.
The limited number of available petitions makes early planning a must
for anyone looking to obtain an H-1B visa.
Newly issued visas for the year 2008 become available on April 1, 2007,
therefore requiring an applicant to begin preparing his/her application
immediately and have it submitted to USCIS within weeks of this opening date. However, individuals seeking employment with non-profit organizations,
universities or governmental research laboratories are excluded from the
Cap and therefore can still obtain an H-1B after the 65,000 Cap visas
With the right amount of planning, a US employer can hire a skilled foreign
worker with an H-1B visa and begin the process of building his/her future
life in the United States.
Rishi is a Partner at Robert Brown LLC and works primarily in the areas
of business and family immigration, as well as deportation defense. He
is a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, The Johns Hopkins University and Case
Western Reserve University School of Law. Rishi was admitted to the practice
of law in Ohio in 2006.