What Is the H1B Visa?
The H1B non-immigrant visa is designed to attract skilled foreign workers to fill specialized roles where there is currently a shortage of US-based talent. Qualified applicants must possess a relevant four-year Bachelor’s Degree or the equivalent of 12 years of experience in their chosen field, as well as any appropriate professional licenses.
H1B employees are regularly hired across industries such as:
- Life Sciences
- Computer Sciences
- IT & Software
- Chemistry and Physics
- Fashion modeling – provided that the individual is an established model with a distinguished and prominent portfolio.
H1B is a three-year visa, but beneficiaries can apply to extend their period of stay for a further three years. Certain qualifying employees (e.g. foreign workers employed at the Department of Defense) may be allowed to extend their visa duration for an even longer period.
Advantages of the H1B Visa
The H1B visa program is extremely popular amongst US businesses and foreign workers alike.
Due to their location or limited budgets, many employers are unable to access top-tier talent at home. With the H1B allowance, employers are able to recruit a selection of proven overseas professionals who can help to bring new expertise and insights to key organizational functions. Foreign workers can also improve the international growth and global competitiveness of these businesses.
For foreign applicants, H1B offers several unique benefits that make it a more appealing option than comparable temporary visas.
Duration of Stay – Other work visas such as the B-1 or J-1 are short-term visas that only grant applicants the right to stay in the US for limited periods (generally, 3 months to a year). By comparison, the H1B visa allows workers to work in the country for up to 6 years with little issue.
Flexibility – An H1B visa can be transferred easily between different employers. In most cases, employees do not have to wait for approval on related I-29 Forms before they take up a position at their new workplace. This facility even applies to individuals who have already spent a maximum of six years at another US company.
Family Allowance – Under the H1B visa, qualifying employees are allowed to bring their spouses and children (up to the age of 21) to live with them in the US. These dependents will fall under a separate H4 visa. While spouses and children are free to reside and study in the US, they must obtain further employment authorizations if they wish to work in the country.
Accessibility – Applicants from all countries are free to apply for an H1B visa.
Dual Intent – For prospective US immigrants, one of the biggest advantages of their H1B visa is the fact that they can apply for legal permanent residency while they are still working under H1B. This is in stark comparison to other temporary visas, which can be declared void if the beneficiary is found to have misrepresented their intent to seek permanent residence within the United States.
Challenges to H1B Application
It is important to note that a foreign worker cannot apply for an H1B visa on their own. A sponsoring employer must first petition for the employee’s eligibility, once approval is received they can then put in an application on behalf of the employee.
In the application, the employer must demonstrate that:
- Hiring a foreign worker will not affect the wages or working conditions of similarly employed US workers.
- That they are unable to find US-based workers to fill the open position.
H1B also carries a strict cap on the number of petitions that can be accepted over a fiscal year. Currently, this figure stands at 85,000. This limit is split up into three tiers.
- A basic cap for non-advanced degree workers set at 65,000.
- An advanced degree cap of 20,000 for foreign workers who have graduated with either a Master’s degree or doctorate from a US university.
- Specific country quotas for Chile (1,400) and Singapore (5,400).
In the 2018-2019 application period, these petition caps were filled in just five days. When this happens, all eligible applications are chosen based on an a random selection (also known as a lottery)
Looking Towards the Future
The Trump administration has implemented several policies that are aimed at creating a more rigorous approvals procedure for H1B applications. These measures aims to reduce abuses of the H1B program and ensure that only the most highly qualified and critical foreign workers receive employment within the United States. New regulations have also added additional obstacles to the H1B to green card transition process.