Today were going to be talking about exactly what is an H-1 B Visa? Well simply stated the H-1 B is a popular visa for foreign workers who wish to be employed by a U.S employer. The key here is that you are bringing together the US Company or employer with the foreign worker who has the necessary skills and experience needed by the employer.
So, then, this raises the first question: Who is eligible to obtain an H1B Visa…or more importantly, are YOU eligible for the H-1B visa?
First thing to know is the H1B Specialty Occupation rules. The rules state that you must have a 4-year college degree or its equivalent. Ideally you’ll want to have a 4-year college degree. But what if you don’t already have a four-year degree? What is its equivalent? Can your experience be credited being equivalent?
The answer is yes…well sort of.
You see, generally, H1B rules require three years experience as being equivalent to one year of college—but the experience must have some relationship to the degree or field of study required for the job you are seeking. So then, just merely having general life experience will not be sufficient.
For example, lets say that according to the H1B rules, you need a bachelor’s degree but, the job your trying to get requires a degree OR some specialized experience. You Can qualify with experience alone! Assuming, of course that you meet all other requirements.
Let me take a moment to recap here. We’re talking about H1B visas and what you need to qualify. We discussed the 4-year college degree rule and how you can substitute experience for that degree with 3 three years related experience being considered the equivalent of one year of college. And that it is possible to obtain an H-1 B visa with experience alone.
Now let’s consider what is meant by a Specialty Occupation under the H1B visa rules. OK, listen closely because this part can get a little boring….but is important for you to understand.
What is an H1B Specialty Occupation?
A specialty occupation requires theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge along with at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent…and now you know what that means. Lets give you a few examples of some qualifying occupations: architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts are all specialty occupations. (And, there are others too.)
OK, now lets say then that you have an job opportunity to work in a H1B specialty occupation field, and that you meet the 4- year degree requirement we discussed earlier. (or its equivalent)
For how long is the H1B visa valid?
You apply for (or actually your employer) and…congratulations you qualify and get the H1B visa. For how long is the H1-B Visa valid? How long can you stay, live and work in the United States? Well, the H1B visa is good for 3 years…but it can be renewed for up to 6 years. And, in some cases even longer.
H1B Visa Quota
I’m sure you’ve all heard in the news that there is a limited number of H1 B visas available each year. This unfortunately is true. There are H1B Visa Quotas. Currently the law limits to 65,000 the number of aliens who may be issued a visa or otherwise provided H1B status. And you should be aware that in each of the past several years this quota has been met within days. Because of the rapidity in reaching this quota the Department of Homeland Security has established a form of lottery system to select a pool of applications for processing.
Exceptions to the H1B Quota: Renewals and U.S. Masters Degree
But, the quota does not apply to renewals. So if you already have the H1B you won’t have to worry about quotas when it comes to for renewal. Also certain other applicants need not worry about the quota, for example, applicants who have a master degree from a U.S. university.
Finally, lets go over a few common misconceptions with the H1B Visa. Many people believe that once hired by an H1 B employer you have to stay with them for the entire term of the visa…sort of like an indentured servant. This is not true at all.
Changing H1B Employers
You may change H-1B employers without affecting status, but, and this is important, the new H-1B employer must file an new application for you before you begin working for the new employer. Once filed you can commence working for the new employer.
What if your employer sells the business, will that terminate your H1b Visa?
As long as you continue to work for the new owner in the same specialty occupation capacity you are in compliance and your visa remains valid.
Must you be working at all times? As long as your H1B employer/employee relationship exists, you are still in status. You may work in full or part-time employment and remain in status. You may also be on vacation, sick/maternity/paternity leave, on strike, or otherwise inactive without affecting your status.
Can you get a green card once you get an H1B Visa?
Yes, you can be the beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition, apply for adjustment of status, or take other steps toward Lawful Permanent Resident status without affecting your H1B status. This is known as “dual intent” and has been recognized in the immigration law since passage of the Immigration Act of 1990. During the time that the application for LPR status is pending, you may travel on your H1B visa rather than obtaining advance parole or requesting other advance permission from Immigration to return to the U.S.