A H-1B visa (“Specialty Occupation”) visa allows a foreign national to work temporarily in the U.S. The visa is valid for 3 years at first, then may be renewed once for another 3 years. The general requirement is that the applicant be a worker in a “specialty occupation”. This means that the person has:

  • At least a bachelor’s degree in that field (or equivalent)
  • Both theoretical understanding and practical experience in their field

Some common fields that are associated with H-1B visas include: Arts and sciences; mathematics; engineering; theology, legal practices; and several others.

What Are the Qualifications for a H-1B Visa?

In addition to meeting the educational and professional requirements, an applicant for a H-1B visa must:

  • Provide evidence that they have the ability to work in their specialty occupation field;
  • Prove that they are seeking temporary work in the U.S.
  • Have a relationship with an employer who will petition them for work in the U.S.

On the other hand, the H-1B visa is also a “dual intent” visa, meaning that the person may be able to apply for more permanent status after entering the country.

How Long Does the Filing Process Take? What Types of Documents are Needed?

The application process generally takes anywhere from 3-6 months. In some cases, the applicant can apply for expedited servicing, which will make this time shorter. They must usually pay an additional fee for expedited service.

The processing can take some time due to the different documents that the applicant needs to submit. These can include:

  • Labor applications and certification
  • Offer of employment from their U.S. employer
  • Tax information
  • Copies of foreign educational degrees, resumes, and professional licenses
  • Birth certificate and marriage certificate (if they will be bringing their spouse and children along with them)

Thus, any errors or mistakes with regards to these documents can cause a delay in the H-1B visa application process. It may be recommended to compile as much documentation as possible before even submitting the application form. 

What If I Get Laid off or My Company Goes Under?

The foreign national employee must remain employed in order to retain their H-1B status. Therefore, if their employee fires or lays them off, or if the company ceases to exist, they will lose their valid H-1B status. They generally can’t apply for a change of status, as their valid status will have expired.  

In some cases, it may be possible to transfer to an existing branch of the same company within the U.S. This is a very specific situation that usually requires additional documentation and interviewing with immigration authorities.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a H-1B Visa?

H-1B visas are actually one of the more popular and favorable visa categories. However, the application process is very selective and involves many complicated steps. If you or a loved one will be applying for a H-1B visa, you may wish to speak with an immigration lawyer for help. Your immigration attorney will be able to assist you with the application, and can help with any other legal issues or hearings that need to be addressed.