H-1B (Specialty Occupation Visa)
The H-1B visa is the primary vehicle for foreign professionals to work in the U.S. To qualify for an H-1B, the worker must, at a minimum:
- Be coming to work for a U.S. employer;
- Be coming to work in a specialty occupation position. A specialty occupation ordinarily requires the attainment of a bachelors degree or its equivalent, as a minimum for entry into the occupation, and
- Have the requisite bachelors degree or equivalent
To sponsor a prospective employee for and H-1B, an employer must first obtain a certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor. The main purpose of the LCA is to assure that employment of H-1B workers will not adversely affect U.S. workers in the same occupation.
Once an LCA is approved, the employer can file the H-1B petition with the USCIS. An H-1B can be granted for an initial three year period, and can be extended for an additional three years. After six years in H-1B status (or a combination of H-1B and L-1 status), an H-1B worker must leave the U.S. for at least one year before returning on another H-1B (or L-1).
Spouses and children can obtain H-4 visas that allow them to accompany the H-1B worker, but the H-4 does not allow them to work.
The annual cap for new H-1B visas is 65,000. An additional 20,000 visas are allotted to H-1B applicants with a U.S. Master's degree or higher.