I offer general information. Please consult with an immigration attorney for personalized legal advice before beginning any proceedings.
Every year, thousands of foreign professionals who wish to work and live legally in the United States try to obtain an H-1B visa, but the demand is great, there are very specific requirements, and it is a very competitive process. In addition, the U.S. government offers few of these visas. Last year, for example, more than 190,000 applications were filed for 85,000 available visas. Those who were not selected have a new opportunity, but they need to start preparing now.
Monday, April 1, 2019 begins the application period for H-1B visas for fiscal year 2020 (October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will accept petitions until the allotted visas for the fiscal year are exhausted.
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What is the H-1B visa?
The H-1B is a nonimmigrant visa that allows the temporary hiring of foreign employees with college degrees and experience in specialized fields such as scientists, engineers or computer programmers.
The government currently issues 65,000 H-1B visas a year, but 6,800 are reserved for citizens of Chile and Singapore, under terms of free trade agreements with those countries. Another 20,000 visas are for workers with master's and doctoral degrees earned in the United States.
Applications filed by universities and government or non-profit research institutions do not count toward the 65,000 visa cap. Applications by individuals seeking an extension of their H-1B status in the U.S., either for the same employer or a new employer, are also not counted.
Requirements to initiate the procedure
Only U.S. employers may process the visa, because they are the ones sponsoring the workers. The law prohibits employees from performing or paying for the processing of an H-1B visa.
Before initiating the process, you must ensure that the person is eligible and have all the evidence required for an H-1B visa, including proof of the employee's college degree.
If the employer indicates that the worker qualifies for this visa due to a combination of education and experience, the employer will need to provide evidence to confirm this at the time of application.
All documentation must be in order, because USCIS is giving increased scrutiny to H-1B visa applications, including those filed for employees who will work at one or more third-party worksites.
An H-1B petition may not be filed more than six months before the date of commencement of employment.
New H-1B Visa Lottery Process
Due to the high demand for H-1B visas, in recent years USCIS has conducted a lottery to select who would receive the visas.
Visas will likely be redrawn to select H-1B visa winners for fiscal year 2020. If this happens, USCIS will implement new lottery procedures.
First, USCIS would select H-1B petitions filed on behalf of all beneficiaries.
Of the remaining eligible petitions, it would select the number needed to reach the cap on petitions dedicated to foreign professionals with master's or advanced degrees from U.S. universities. USCIS estimates that this will result in an increase of approximately 5,340 petitions designated for foreign nationals with graduate degrees.
Advantages of the H-1B Visa
Foreign professionals who meet all requirements may live and work legally in the United States for three years, but the term may be extended to six consecutive years, with some exceptions.
The H1-B visa allows the applicant to legally bring his or her spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 on an H-4 visa, allowing them to study in the United States. Certain H-4 visa spouses may work in the U.S. if they meet the necessary requirements.
An H-1B beneficiary may also apply for permanent residence through a family-based or employment-based immigrant visa without prejudice to his or her current immigration status.
Please consult with an immigration attorney before beginning any immigration proceedings.