The H-1B non-immigrant visa program is intended to permit US employers to hire professional workers for “specialty occupations” (positions that require at least a Bachelor’s Degree in a specialized field). Examples include researchers, engineers, accountants, medical personnel, and computer professionals. The period of stay for H-1B holder is 6 years, and an application must be made to USCIS. Extensions beyond six (6) years may be possible under certain circumstances.
H-1B visas are available for full-time or part-time employment. They are “employer-specific,” which means that the worker can only work for the employer who sponsored him or her. However, an employee can have “concurrent” H-1B visas; in other words, it is permissible to have more than one employer so long as each employer obtains an H-1B visa on behalf of the foreign national.
H-1B visas are subject to an annual cap of 65,000 (plus an additional 20,000 visas for those with U.S. advanced degrees). Under this cap, H-1B visas start on October 1; employers are permitted to start filing petitions on April 1. In most years, the annual cap is reached very quickly. It is important to note that some employers, institutions of higher education and nonprofit research organizations, are not subject to the cap; there is no limitation on the number of visas that they can get, and they can apply an any time for an immediate start date.
To be eligible for H-1B status, the foreign national must:
- Alien must possess at least the equivalent of a US Bachelor’s degree (if a foreign degree is utilized a credentials evaluation will be required), and
- The job offer must normally require at least a Bachelor’s degree.
When a foreign national has a lot of work experience, but no degree, it is possible to use the “Three for One Rule.” Three years of work experience can be substituted for 1 year of academic study in order to equate the work experience to a Bachelor’s.