If you are planning to work in the United States as an H-1B non-immigrant employee, then it is important that you have a basic understanding of this visa. The H-1B visa is meant for professionals in specialized fields who will be working at a specific location for a limited period of time. It is also meant for employees who are highly qualified and need to be brought in by a sponsoring employer for a temporary job. However, with the growing number of job seekers looking to work in the United States, it can become tricky to get approval for an H-1B visa sponsorship from your potential employer.
This article answers some of the most frequently asked questions about the H-1B program so that you can make an informed decision if it’s right for you as well as your future employer.
Top H-1B Visa Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
1. What is an H-1B?
A. The H-1B is an employer-sponsored non-immigrant classification that is issued to individuals who are not US citizens or permanent residents to work in a specialized occupation for up to six years. The employer must apply for the H-1B on behalf of the prospective employee through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Also, “specialized occupation” in this scenario means a position that needs specific knowledge, abilities, and at least a bachelor’s degree in that discipline.
The H-1B employer must pay the H-1B employee the prevailing wage or the current wage, whichever is higher. The salary received by employees in identical occupations in the area of prospective employment is known as the “prevailing wage. The wage that the employer actually pays employees in related jobs where the desired employment is located is the “actual wage”. An attorney or other qualified person will be required to finish the documentation due to the complexity of the H-1B procedures and record-keeping requirements.
2. What types of occupations qualify for H-1B status?
A. H-1B status is available for a wide variety of professional jobs. H-1B visas are often available for professionals working in the fields of engineering, biology, physics, social sciences, math, and business administration. The minimal educational qualification for an occupation to be eligible for H-1B status is always a bachelor’s degree; however, depending on the post, an advanced degree (Master’s or PhD) may be required.
3. Who is eligible for H-1B status?
A. A person who has been offered a temporary professional position by a US firm may qualify for H-1B status. The minimum educational requirement for a position to qualify for H-1B status is a bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field, and the H-1B employee must possess this degree (or higher).
4. I have a bachelor’s degree. Am I eligible for H-1B status?
A. No, not always. A bachelor’s degree or higher in a specific field must be required for the job itself. Once you obtain that degree, you are eligible for H-1B status.
5. Is it difficult to get H-1B status in certain kinds of jobs?
A. For specific jobs, obtaining H-1B status may be exceptionally challenging. Jobs in sales that don’t need specialized training can be challenging. Various jobs in the technology industry, particularly computer programming, might be difficult to get since the necessary qualifications for some computer-related professions are not necessarily firmly established. You can get legal advice regarding the applicability of an H-1B for a specific position.
6. Is there a minimum salary for a job in H-1B status?
A. Yes, the firm recruiting an H-1B worker is required to provide the US Department of Labor (DOL) with certification that it will pay the employee the higher of the prevailing wage or the actual wage. The salary received by employees in similar occupations in the vicinity of the workplace is known as the “prevailing wage.” The wage that the employer really pays employees in related jobs where the desired employment is located is the actual wage. Additionally, the company must attest that by hiring the H-1B applicant, no American workers will be displaced and that there are no strikes or other work stoppages in that particular area of employment. By submitting a “Labor Condition Application” form to the DOL for certification, the employer makes these statements under penalty of perjury.
7. What is the Labor Condition Application (LCA) for H-1B?
A. One of the prerequisites for the application procedure is the H-1B Labor Condition Application (LCA). It aids the Department of Labor (DOL) in determining whether the employer is permitted to employ an H-1B worker and is able to pay the prevailing wage.
8. How long am I allowed to stay in the United States on an H-1B visa?
A. The H-1B visa is valid for six years in total. A freshly admitted H-1B non-immigrant has a three-year initial period of stay. You may receive a stay extension beyond the initial three years for a maximum of additional three years. You must leave the country and wait at least a year before reapplying if you want to apply for an H-1B visa. If your application for a green card is still pending with the USCIS, you could be allowed to stay for longer than six years.
9. Can I bring my family with me?
A. Yes. H-1B workers are permitted to bring their spouses, kids (under the age of 21), and other dependents with them to the United States. For this, a separate visa known as the H-4 non-immigrant classification is available. They will have to go through the required immigration process, just like you did. The family are allowed to live and study in the United States if accepted. But, they cannot work in the US with an H-4 status without a valid work permit. They must submit an I-765 form for an employment authorization document (EAD) before they are authorized to work. The applicants can only do this once the primary H-1B holder has started the procedure for their green card.
10. What happens if my employer terminates my H-1B employment?
A. Before the conclusion of your permitted period of stay, your employer may terminate your H-1B employment. There is a grace period of 60 days following a loss of a job if that happens. After that, you will no longer be in status because you need to work to keep your status. In such a case, the employer will be responsible for paying for your return travel expenses to your home country. Although, your company won’t be responsible for the cost if you willingly leave your position.
11. What is the H-1B visa transfer process?
A. Many H-1B visa holders, whether they are inside or outside of the US, must go through the H-1B visa transfer procedure in order to switch jobs.
Questions and Answers About H-1B Stamping
1. How can I apply for revalidation as a returning H-1B/H4 visa holder?
A. Since July 2004, H1/H4 revalidation has been discontinued in the US. For H1/H4 stamping, you must schedule an appointment as usual unless you are eligible for a waiver of the visa interview.
2. If the consular officer rejects my H-1B application, what happens?
A. Following an in-person interview, the officer may request additional information. The officer will decline your application in that case in accordance with INA Section 221(g), which indicates “pending for administrative processing.” You can return to the same embassy or consulate where you were interviewed on working days with the necessary documentation. If the officer concludes that the applicant is unable to perform the responsibilities set forth in Form I-129, he or she will reject the application in accordance with INA Section 221(g) once more. This time, however, the officer suggests that Form I-129 be revoked in a letter to the DHS. All supporting paperwork is sent to the DHS Service Center, where the petition was first filed, along with the letter. The embassy or consulate no longer handles the case at this point. Any additional questions must be mailed to the relevant DHS Service Center. Form I-797 has the list of the centers and their postal addresses.
3. Will there be any impact on my current visa stamping since I did not use the previous one?
A. No, your current visa stamping chances are not going to be harmed because you did not use your previous H-1B visa. But, the consular official might enquire as to your reasons for not using the prior visa.
4. Will my B1 visa be void if I get my H-1B visa stamped?
A. Depending on the consular officer, your B1 visa stamp may be cancelled without prejudice when you go for H-1B visa stamping.
5. My I-797 petition, marriage certificate, and degree certificate were not returned by the consulate official. How can I retrieve them?
A. After the visa interview, the consular official usually gives the applicant their original paperwork back. You should consult the office immediately if you have any questions. You might also wish to mention to the officer that you need those documents back at the end of the interview if you are missing them. If the paperwork is still missing, it tends to be mailed to the applicant at the address provided on the application. If not, you can go to the embassy’s or consulate’s information center where you had your interview.
6. My H-1B petition was approved a long time ago, but I never had my visa stamped. Is my H-1B visa still valid?
A. As long as the I797 is valid and there is a job offer, the H-1B visa is valid. In the event that the employer revokes the H-1B, the employee cannot enter on that petition (I797) until a new employer transfers the H1 and a new I797 is issued.
7. Is it possible to get my visa renewed, revalidated, or restamped?
Renewal: Those who reapply for H, I, L, O, or P visas outside of the US are eligible for renewals.
Revalidation: Only official and diplomat visas are eligible for revalidations, which are not available outside of the US.
Restamping: Passports cannot be “restamped” because the US visa is not currently a stamp. Instead, a paper visa foil coats the inside of your passport.
8. My visa stamp is no longer valid even though I have a valid petition. I am now outside of the US and must return there to continue my job. What should I do?
A. To re-enter the US, you must submit a new visa application and get a visa stamp on your passport.
9. I switched from an F-1 to an H-1B status while I was in the US. Do I need a visa to enter the US again?
A. Yes. For the new non-immigrant status, you must apply for a new visa. The Form I-797 (Notice of Action) confirming your status change must be brought with you.
10. How far in advance of the start date of the job (as stated on the I-797 notice) may I apply for an H1 visa at the consulate?
A. As stated on the I-797 notice, you have up to 90 days before the start of employment to apply. But, you may enter the country up to 10 days before the start of your job if you are already employed in the US on an H-1B visa and have submitted an application for restamping.
11. Will I get any petition stamps at the time of the interview?
12. Will my visa be rejected if I do not have a client letter?
A. If you are working at a third-party jobsite, it is usually recommended that you bring a client letter with you. If you don’t have it for a specific reason, like the client doesn’t provide one, have an email copy or other evidence that the client doesn’t provide letters to clients. It is best to carry everything because US consular officers want to confirm that you are actually employed properly. Not having the client letter will not always result in rejection, but if the visa officer is unconvinced, it could result in administrative processing.
13. Will my visa be rejected if I do not have all the H-1B supporting documents listed in the above article?
A. No. The documents listed under “supporting documents” are merely suggestions and are not mandatory. You are fine even though you do not have them or have not been able to get them on time. If you can arrange and get them on time, it is good to carry them.
14. How long does the H-1B visa stamp remain valid?
A. Typically, the H-1B Visa stamp validity in the passport is determined by the validity of the H-1B Visa approval notice (I-797 A form). However, there is no law saying that the consular officer must provide it for the entire period of time. It is completely up to them.
15. Will I get single or several entries for H-1B Stamping?
A. H-1B applicants usually get numerous entries for visa stamping. However, in a few countries, they might only provide one entry.
16. If I miss any documents, will my H-1B visa stamping be rejected immediately?
A. No, unless there is a connection to fraud or misrepresentation, the H-1B visa stamping is typically not rejected right away. The consular officer will typically give the applicant a 221g Administrative Processing form with instructions on what they must submit.
17. Does having all of the H-1B documents listed above guarantee H-1B Visa stamping?
A. No. The paperwork is required for the visa application. Even if you have all the necessary paperwork, your H-1B visa stamping may not be approved. It pushes you to be ready for the stamping and be able to respond to any question.