I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.See all posts Frank Gogol
Guide to H1B Visa Status Trackers
At a Glance
- The H1B status is a nonimmigrant visa for foreign workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- Obtained through the H1B lottery, it provides opportunities for good salaries and professional growth.
- H1B visa holders can buy property, get a driver’s license, and travel within the U.S.
- The application involves filing a petition, paying fees, and attending an interview.
If you are lucky enough to have your H1B visa application selected in the lottery process, you will then have to wait as your application goes through the various steps of the approval process. You will then be given your own unique 13-digit tracking number, known as the H1B Case Number, which you can use to track your application’s progress.
The wait between selection and your visa’s approval can be a long and anxious one. Each time you check your application using your Case Number you will be given a case status, however, these can be confusing and often lead to applicants asking more questions.
So, in order to put your mind at ease through this process, we have made a list of the most common case statuses and explained their meaning.
Check out our video guide “H1B Visa Status Tracker” or read on to learn more!
What Is an H1B Status?
An H1B status is a category of a nonimmigrant visa that allows an employer to work in the United States. If you are someone who got a bachelor’s degree or higher, you can work in a certain job as long as it’s related to your studies. The H1B visa is applied for at the USCIS, and petitions are always accepted annually on April 1st.
It works by randomly selecting some lucky applicants through what is known as the H1B visa lottery. No matter whether applicants are accepted or not – they still get a reply from USCIS, which is called the H1B visa status.
The H1B visa is useful to have if you’re a noncitizen in the U.S. and you want to get a job related to your studies. With an H1B bias, you can get a good salary, as well as amazing professional opportunities.
Apart from these, the visa will offer you the opportunity to get a driver’s license, rent or buy a property, travel within the country freely, and earn and invest your income. You can lease or buy a car as well.
How to Check Your H1B Status
If you’re aiming to win the H1B Visa lottery, then it’s important to know how to check your H1B status. Last year, more than 200,000 people were applying for an H1B Visa, yet only 85,000 of them were chosen, thanks to the lottery. That makes 42% of the applicants. As such, since the lottery becomes more competitive, you need to be prepared.
But do you know how to check H1B registrations status? It’s easy!
To check your H1B status, it’s essential to access the USCIS website and look there. You should get a receipt number or case from USCIS while waiting for the lottery results, and you need to use these in the H1B Visa Status Tracking System.
Keep in mind that a 13-digit receipt number will be required from you. It should start with the letters VSC, NSC, WAC, EAC, or other three letters. The letters depend on the service that is dealing with your application.
H1B Status Meanings
There are multiple forms of statuses, and depending on the status of your application, you will get one of these notices:
- Approved Case: In case your case was approved, you are going to receive a formal mailed approval notice mentioning that the case has been approved. It will usually take a few weeks for this notice to be mailed.
- Received Case: You need to submit some forms when applying for your H1B Visa. If USCIS receives them, you will be notified about this. Furthermore, a receipt notice will be mailed to you. It will give you more information about the processing period for your application.
- Decision Notice: In some situations, you can receive a “Decision notice mailed” status on the USCIS website. If you do, it means that your visa application hasn’t been accepted. What you can do in this situation is to wait for the next cycle and apply again.
- Received Case and Emailed Receipt Notice: Maybe you paid a fee for your visa application processing, to get a decision within 15 days. The fee is generally $1,410. Receiving this form means that USCIS now has all the documents sent by you in their possession, and they sent you an email with the receipt notice. You should also be aware that in case of a delay in response, you can ask for a refund, as it’s in your right.
- Additional Evidence Request: Before continuing with the application process, there may be a need for additional information. If you get this notice, it means that USCIS still needs to verify some of your details.
H1B Application Overview
If you want to apply for an H1B visa, here is what you need to know.
How to Qualify for an H1B Visa
Qualification for an H1B visa is possible as long as you obtained a bachelor’s or master’s degree and you’re eligible to work. Some jobs that will earn you an H1B visa are dentist, therapist, engineer, coder, lawyer, architect, mathematician, economist, and many others.
Check out Stilt’s new H1B database to find an H1B sponsor in your profession or city!
H1B Application Process
The H1B application process involves a few steps. First of all, you need to file a petition in the H1B lottery that includes your name and then wait for a notice from USCIS that you were chosen. Afterward, file form I-129, and pay the necessary fees. Schedule an interview at the relevant U.S. embassy, and take your filed forms and supporting documents when you go to the interview. Then you just have to wait for the approval of denial of the application.
Fees Related to Your H1B Application
When applying for an H1B visa, you will have to pay a $320 base fee, a $750 ACWIA fee, a $500 fraud fee, and some additional costs between $1,570 and $3,320. In some cases, if you want, you can pay $1,000 for premium processing.
H1B Visa Application Processing Time
With premium processing, the application will only take 15 days. Meanwhile, regular processing will be longer, respectively between six weeks and three months.
H1B Visa Extensions
Has your H1B visa application been accepted? Then it’s time to think of extending it when you reach the third year as a worker in the U.S.
When to Apply
You have to apply for an extension six months before your current visa expires. It will take between 1-3 months to process the extension. This is why it’s best to apply as soon as you can.
Can I Work with an Expired H1B and a Pending Application?
As long as you filed your extension application on time, you can still work and live legally in the U.S. If you have a pending application, you have up to 240 days left.
How to File an Extension with a New Employer?
You may be planning to change jobs while extending your visa. In this case, you need to get your new employer to file your extension for you. USCIS lets you start working for a new job even before you get an extension approval.
H1B Status Extensions
Usually, you are only granted an H-1B visa for 6 years. This time period can, however, be extended if you apply with a Form I-140 and your application gets approved or you get back any time spent outside of the U.S. during your H-1B visa.
You can get a one-year extension on your H-1B visa if:
- It has been a year (i.e. 365 days) since your labor certification filing or your employment-based petition
- You reapply before your labor certification expires
- You submit an advanced filing
Advanced filing is when you apply for an H-1B extension after 6 years, but 6 months before your new requested start date of your extended H-1B visa.
You can even get an extension of three years if you are successful in an EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3 petition and you submit the advanced filing.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are a few Frequently Asked Questions about H-1B visa applications.
Can my spouse and children live in the U.S. if I have H-1B status?
Yes, but only if they get H4 authorization. Note that only your spouse and unmarried children who are minors are allowed to live with you on H4 status. They can also not work while living in the U.S. on H4 status.
Can I get H-1B status if I’m self-employed?
Unfortunately, your employer has to file your H-1B petition on your behalf. This means you typically can’t be self-employed and receive an H-1B visa.
Do I have to maintain a foreign residence?
With the H-1B visa, you don’t need to maintain a foreign residence. An H-1B visa allows you to seek residency in the U.S. if you meet all the qualification criteria.
What if I have multiple employers?
If you have more than one employer, each employer will have to file an H-1B petition to authorize you to work for them. This applies to both full time and part-time employers. Each petition has to be a separate petition. Each employer will also have to approve a Form I-129. You are only allowed to work for an employer once the H-1B visa is filed for that employer.
What if I hold another type of visa?
If you are in the U.S. on another visa, you can switch to an H-1B visa. You can, unfortunately, not do this if you are not in the country. In such a case, you will have to apply for an H-1B visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate. You can apply after the USCIS has approved your employer’s petition in this regard.
Can I file an H-1B for myself?
Unfortunately, only employers are allowed to file H-1B visa petitions.
Are there any restrictions?
Yes. You are not allowed to work as a freelancer, independent contractor or be self-employed if you are on an H-1B visa.
How quickly should I file?
As soon as you can. Preferably at the start of the fiscal year. There are a lot of H-1B visa applications and the USCIS makes use of a lottery system to pick applications randomly.
What are the case statuses of an H-1B visa petition?
- Case Was Received and a Receipt Notice Was Emailed
- Case Was Received
- Response to USCIS’ Request for Evidence Was Received
- Case Was Approved
- Fees Will Be Refunded
- Error: The application Receipt Number Is invalid
- Request for Additional Evidence Notice Was mailed
- Case Was Approved and My Decision Was Emailed
- Decision Notice Mailed
- Name Was Updated
What if I’m selected in the lottery?
If you are selected, your employer or the attorney who is dealing with the application on your behalf will receive your case receipt number. Once you have this, you can track the status of your application online.
What are the processing steps of the H-1B visa?
The USCIS has articles available at the USCIS adjudication center explaining the processes they use. These processes change from time to time, so if you want an in-depth understanding, checking these articles will be best.
- 6 Ways to Find an H1B Visa Sponsorship
- How to Change Jobs on an H1B Visa
- The Non-ECR Category: A Guide
- H1B Visa Stamping: H1B Visa Interview Documents and More
- Complete Guide to the H1B to Green Card Process
- What Are My Options for Change of Status Visa Stamping If I Am Already in America?
- Guide to the H2B Visa
- H1B Transfer: How To Change Jobs on an H1B Visa
Learning how to check H1B status is fairly simple. And using the information above you’ll be able to understand your H1B case status meaning and know what your next steps are!