H-1B visa has been designed to facilitate US based employers to locate and hire overseas personnel temporarily to work in professions termed as “Specialty Occupations” that require specialized expertise, and in which the employers find it hard to locate suitably accomplished people locally.
- Professions termed as ‘Specialty Occupations’ include several fields like biotechnology, chemistry, architecture, engineering, IT, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology, and the arts etc.. People working in ‘Specialty Occupation’ and being considered as beneficiaries in H-1B request must at least have graduation atleast bachelor’s degree or approved equivalent to their credit.
- H-1B is employment dependant and in cases where the overseas workers are fired or they quit, they must either obtain new employment or file and obtain change of status within 10 days or depart from US shores.
- H-1B does not carry any minimum period stipulation for original employment and in case visa holders wish to shift to another job, they can do so by filling change of employer H-1B petition or getting new employers to sponsor another H-1B under the portability clause (the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act – AC21), if have immigrant petition pending.
- People spending a period of 6 years on H-1B visa but not obtaining permanent residence must depart from country and remain outside the country for at least one year before reapplying for H-1B.
- Families (including spouse and children aged under 21 years) of H-1B visa holders can accompany visa holders and live in USA under H-4 status.
- The employer must obtain a Labor Condition Application (LCA– Form ETA 9035) from designated authority (DOL) before submitting the request for H-1B permit, which in turn must be self, endorsed and submitted by petitioners.
Tenure of Residence
Validity of H-1B visa is three years, which can be renewed later for up to a period not extending beyond 6 years. There are certain exceptions to maximum tenure, i.e.
- If application of visa holder is pending for permanent residence and I-140 has been submitted before the end of 5 year of residence, the H-1B permit can be renewed for a period ranging between one to three years.
- I-140 petitions of Visa holders are sanctioned but they are not able to start final phase of green card process due to priority date not being current.
Annual Number Caps
Currently, there is an annual regular cap of 65,000 on H-1B visa and Advanced Degree Cap (usually referred as Master’s Cap) of 20,000.
USCIS sets aside 6,800 visa, from the regular cap of 65,000, for H1B1 visa for US-Chile and US- Singapore free trade agreement. If these visas are not used, they become available over to general quota for next year.
- Overseas personnel who have been in the country earlier on the basis of H-1B visa or are currently enjoying H-1B status are generally excluded from annual numerical quota system.
- Certain categories of workers on H-1B permit have been excluded from annual ceiling system and requests for these can be placed at any time of the year. Every year, US government grants a significantly higher number of H-1Bs dues to several exemptions and rollovers.
H-4 Dependent Visa
An H-4 visa is granted to Family (spouse and children under 21 years of age) of the H-1B visa holders. The tenure of H-4 visa compliments the validity of H-1B visa.
Families of H-1B visa holders entering the country on alternative arrangements can place requests for transition to H-1B visa. Visa holders under this class are not eligible for Social Security Number and hence cannot work though they are allowed to obtain education and hold driving licenses, bank accounts and also ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) for tax returns. Since Obama administration has introduced immigration reform back in November 2014, certain H4 visa holders can apply for Employment Authorization Document (EAD). proposed some concrete changes in this visa that would enable spouses of some H-1B visa holders to work in US.