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The US H1B Visa: Everything You Need to Know
March 11, 2022
11 mins
Statue of Liberty. New York, panorama of Manhattan with the One World Trade Center (Freedom Tower) and Hudson River, USA. The Text - All about H1B Visa written over the banner.

In this article, you will read about:

  1. Basic information about H1B visa
  2. A detailed overview of the H1B visa process
  3. Alternatives options to the H1B visa

What Is H1B Visa?

The H1B is a non-immigrant visa designed to allow US employers to engage foreign nationals in speciality occupations in the US for a specified period. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, international workers looking for employment in the US need to have a valid H1B visa for the duration of their stay.

What Are The Criteria For H1B Eligibility?

Let's learn a little more about the eligibility criteria for an H1B visa.

For H1B visa eligibility, foreign nationals must show qualifications with "theoretical or practical application" of a unique body of knowledge that shows them suitable for work in a 'specialty occupation,' with a minimum of a bachelor's degree or equivalent in the discipline.

With the necessary qualifications in place, an employer can file a labor condition with the Department of Labor (DOL) to draw out the details of an employment contract with you.

Here's is a detailed list of H1B visa requirements to be eligible for an H1B visa:

  1. A bachelor's degree or its equivalent, or a Master's degree.
  2. Proof of twelve years of work experience in the field will make you eligible even without a bachelor's degree.
  3. Demonstrate that you are qualified to work in a 'specialty occupation.'
  4. Have a job offer from a US employer for a role that falls under the 'specialty occupation' category.
  5. Demonstrate that you are coming to the US to work and earn a living, not for a humanitarian cause or pursuing a hobby.

US H1B Visa - Benefits For Everyone!

The H1B visa process may look tough to get through, but it has been designed to be useful to all those involved. Read on for full the list of benefits the employer and the beneficiary gain from the H1B visa.

For the employer, the following benefits apply:

  1. Making up for labor shortages: When employers cannot find candidates with the right qualifications in the area they are situated in, the H1B visa will enable them to bring in foreign nationals who are willing to relocate to the US and fulfill the job requirement.
  2. Global Competence: The H1B visa enables US companies to have a global presence. It provides them with competent permanent workers if they are willing to sponsor their applicants for employment-based green cards.

What do the beneficiaries stand to gain?

There are many reasons why the H1B has become the most popular choice for hopeful international professionals who wish to live and work in the US. Here is the whole list of benefits in which the H1B scores over other visa categories:

  1. The H1B is more inclusive than other categories. It is open to all.
  2. Workers with an America H1B visa can bring their families to the US.
  3. Unlike other visas, H1B allows foreign professionals to stay in the US longer. This lengthy initial period of stay works to the workers' benefit if they subsequently apply for a green card.

Finally, let's look at the benefits that dependants of H1B visa holders would enjoy in the US:

H1B Visa holders can bring their family along as their dependants under the H4 visa. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years will be eligible for this visa category. An H-4 visa holder can stay within the US for the entire validity period of the H1B visa. They will be able to attend school, open a bank account, and gain a driver's license in the US. H-4 visa holders can also work in the US to obtain Employment Authorization Documents.

Furthermore, as of May 2015, some H-4 visa holders could become "lawful permanent residents" (LPR) if they fulfill certain conditions.

Also Read : How Does H1B Lottery Work?

The H1B Visa Process: Detailed Overview

The H1B can be a long and strenuous process. Having a detailed knowledge of what is involved and what is expected of you will help you tackle the process correctly. Here is a list of all the steps involved in the H1B Visa process.

Step 1: Your employer must begin the process by filing a Labor Condition Application (Form 9035E/ 9035) with the Department of Labor. He will receive a certificate with which you can move on to the next step. Through the LCA, the Department of Labor will try to determine whether your employer is willing and able to pay you the prevailing wage for the job. The prevailing wage is the wage paid for a similar job post by other companies of a similar size in the area. The DOL will also ascertain whether your employment and working conditions will affect other employees in the company.

Step 2: Once your employer has obtained an LCA certificate, they must approach the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to file a Form I-129 (Petition for Non-Immigrant Worker) petition. He must submit all the supporting documentation and pay a filing fee through an online portal.

Step 3: When the employer's I-129 Form has been approved, it's time for you to start the application process for the H1B visa.

You will have a few different options, depending on where you are applying from:

  1. If you are applying from outside the United States, you must apply for consular processing. This will involve filling out and submitting the DS-160 Form, which will take about 90 minutes.
  2. If you are applying from within the US and holding a visa under a different category, you must stop working until your H1B visa status becomes active.

Step 4: Your employer will pay a processing fee, and you be able to schedule an interview at the US Embassy or Consulate office.

An Overview of the H1B Lottery

The H1B lottery system is a computer-generated process that helps the US government randomly select H1B applicants for approval. Since over 200,000 applications are approved by the USCIS every year, only 65,000 need to be approved by the lottery system. This process was created to deal with the surplus of applications that far outnumbered the visa quota allotted for each year. It is only used in years in which there is an excess of applications.

How to Track Your H1B Visa Application

Once an application or petition is filed, applicants are assigned a 13-character alphanumeric reference number which will act as an identifier. The identifier or receipt number is only generated for completed applications. Employers and employees can access information and updates about their applications online. The following steps will help you in tracking the H1B status after you have filed your petition:

Step 1: Visit ‘https://egov.uscis.gov/casestatus/landing.do.’

Step 2: You will have to enter a 13-character alphanumeric receipt number.

Step 3: Select 'Check Status'.

Step 4: This page will give you an updated status of the applicant's petition.

How to Get Through the H1B Visa Interview

The H1B visa interview is the final step you have to go through. Whether you choose it or it is mandated, consular processing will be held at a specific US Consulate or Embassy. You will be able to schedule the interview and choose the location on the US Embassy website.

Be sure to carry all the necessary documents and certificates when you go for the interview. You will be expected to convince the interviewing officer that you are eligible for the visa category you applied for. There could be extensive questioning about your workplace and your specific job. Your fingerprints will be taken and saved into the system if it is your first time.

If the interviewer is satisfied with your answers and your documents, they will let you know immediately. They will also inform you if your application is denied or put on hold. Your passport will be available soon after the interview.

H1B Visa Stamping: The Final Step in the Process

You have finally reached the end of the visa approval process. The H1B visa is stamped into your passport, and you will be eligible to travel to a US port of entry. Please note that H1B visa approval does not guarantee entry into the US. It only serves as valid authorization to travel there. The visa stamp is required for US immigration to perform the rest of the security checks necessary to determine whether you are eligible to enter. The absence of this stamp in your passport will mean you are trying to enter the US illegally.

Your US employer will give you a document stating the date you must join work. You must apply for your visa 90 days before your joining date. If your H1B has expired and your new visa has been approved, your passport will have to be re-stamped.

How to Track Your Passport After the Stamping Process

There are many ways in which you can track your passport.

Instant Tracking:

Go to (https://www.ustraveldocs.com/in/in-niv-passporttrack.asp) and enter your passport number in the box provided for instant results.

Check Online:

Check your passport location online at https://cgifederal.secure.force.com/?language=English&country=India.

Call For Information:

You can call the following Indian call centers for the information:
91-120 660-2222 or 91-22 6720-9400.

Timings are:

Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00p.m.

In the United States, call: 1-310-616-5424.

Get Tracking Help By Email:

You can send an email to passportstatus@ustraveldocs.com with your passport number in the Subject field and body of the email. Be sure not to add any additional text in the body of the email. You will get an automated response with an update on your status.

What To Expect Once Your American H1B Visa Is Approved

With your H1B visa approval in hand, you have crossed a great milestone in your journey to living and working in the USA. After the USCIS approves an H1B petition, the agency will update the status to the USCIS Online Case Status website. Here's a run-down of what to expect once you get a Petition Approval update on the website:

  1. An I-197 Form, also known as the Approval Notice, will be mailed to your attorney through USPS slow mail.
  2. The attorney will send the documents either to you or your employer.
  3. You are now ready to schedule an H1B Visa interview at the US Embassy near your location.
  4. Once you have passed the interview and gained an H1B Visa stamped onto your passport, you are eligible to travel to a US port of entry any time after the Visa Start Date.

Your H1B visa may be approved with or without a visa status change, depending on where you are applying. You may encounter any of the following on your Visa Approval:

  • H1B Visa Petition Approved with Change of Status if you live in the US.
  • H1B Visa Petition Approved without Change o Status (this does not always happen) when you're living in the US
  • H1B Visa Approved when you live outside the US.

All the Facts You Need About H1B Visa Petition Denial or Rejection

You may get an H1B petition rejection or denial at one of the following stages of the application process:

  • When applying a for Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the US Department of Labor (DOL)
  • When filing Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the USCIS
  • When going through the Non-immigrant Visa Application process at the Department of State (DOS).

US immigration authorities usually provide plenty of advanced warning and a chance to correct errors before they deny an H1B petition. They may issue a request for evidence (RFE), a letter requesting a list of documents, or a response letter within the due date to give you and your employer a chance to respond to any issues. Your failure to do so will result in a denial.

What are the different factors that lead to H1B visa denial?

Here are the most common reasons you could face a denial:

  1. The authorities are not satisfied that the employer is a real, established company operating in the US.
  2. The employer is not able to prove that a clear employer-employee relationship exists.
  3. The beneficiary is not sufficiently qualified or experienced for the job.
  4. The proposed job does not meet the 'specialized occupation' requirements.

Maximum Period of Stay on an H1B Visa

The USCIS allows an immigrant worker on an H1B visa to stay for six years in the US. This works out as an initial H1B visa duration of three years, after which the visa can be extended for another three years.

You will have three options as you near the expiry of your H1B Visa:

  1. You can apply for an H1B extension through the AC21 (American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act).
  2. Apply for a different visa status
  3. Leave the US.

Limitations Of The H1B Visa

The H1B visa provides a wonderful chance to realize your dream of living and working in the US. It scores over other visa categories because it is open to all, and the employer, beneficiary, and the dependants stand to gain many benefits with the H1B visa. But there are a few limitations that you may encounter with this visa:

  • H1B visa does not provide you with a permanent stay advantage. You need to leave the country once it is expired. But, you do have the option of applying for Lawful Permanent Residency under certain conditions, and if you are approved, you will be able to stay permanently legally. If residency is denied, you will be required to choose one of the above three options when your H1B visa expires.
  • The annual cap on H1B visas - 65,000 for a fiscal year - limits your chances of getting a visa if you are a first-time applicant. Fortunately, this does not apply if you are applying for an extension on your visa or changing employers.

Visa Alternatives: Options to try if You Don't Qualify for an H1B Visa

If you cannot qualify for an H1B visa, there are a few alternatives to try. You can seek professional advice about other visa options that are open to you. Your options will depend on your circumstances. Here are some alternate visa options your advisor may present to you:

L-1 Visa

A US organization or company with a parent, subsidiary, branch, or affiliate entity abroad can transfer employees in managerial or executive positions or positions that may require specialized knowledge on an L-1 Visa. The candidate must have at least one year of continuous work experience in the foreign entity during the last three years of employment to be eligible.

H-2B Visa

If you can gain temporary, seasonal, or a 1-time employment opportunity in the US for a period lasting less than one year, you may be eligible for an H-2B visa.

H-3 Visa

With an H-3 Visa, an employer petitions for a foreign employee to undergo a period of training in the US. For this visa to be approved, the employer has to prove that the employee will not be able to get a similar training experience in their home country and that the experience will enhance their career for work outside the US.

J-1 Visa

A J-1 trainee visa allows an employee without experience to gain practical knowledge about a client's products or a prospective employer's products. Before exploring this option, employers must determine whether the "two-year home-country residency" rule will apply to the situation.

B-1 Visa

The B-1 visa is a special category allotted for foreign nationals required in the US for any work termed a "business activity." This may be working in the Form of project discussions and analysis or any other related activity, as long as the foreign national employee is not paid any remuneration in the US.

O-1 Visa

Any professional who has shown exceptional ability in any field, including arts, entertainment, education, the sciences, athletics, or business, can apply for this visa.

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**Disclaimer: H1B rules and regulations keep changing from time to time. For updated information, always refer to the USCIS official website.**

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