Complete H-1B Visa Guide:

Updated on January 4, 2024

At a Glance

  • The H1B visa is a work visa for foreign workers with specialized knowledge to work for a U.S. company.
  • Applicants must meet criteria, including holding a bachelor’s or master’s degree, working in a specialty occupation, and demonstrating the lack of qualified U.S. applicants.
  • The H1B visa lottery and caps determine selection, with a three-year validity and the possibility of extension. H1B visa holders face challenges like limited employment mobility and difficulty obtaining loans, but lenders like Stilt provide immigrant-friendly loan options.

Each year, numerous foreign workers, most with specialty occupations, come to the U.S. on H1B visas to work for American companies. Sponsored by varying institutions from academia to business, these visas showcase global talent. Whether you’re curious about H1B visas or have recently obtained one, this guide is your go-to resource for all things H1B. Discover the essentials here!

What Is an H-1B Visa?

An H1B visa is a type of non-immigrant work visa specific to a specialty occupation, issued by the United States government for foreign professionals who possess specialized knowledge or expertise in particular fields. This visa, often applied via a labor condition application, allows these individuals to temporarily occupy a position and reside in the United States for a predetermined period, typically up to six years. The H1B visa program aims to attract highly skilled workers from around the world to contribute their expertise to the U.S. economy. It provides an opportunity for employers in the United States to hire foreign talent when there is a shortage of qualified workers domestically.

H-1B Visa Lottery

The H1B lottery is a computer-generated random selection process that the U.S. uses to randomly pick H1B visa applicants, particularly those in specialty occupations, to approve. This process was put in place in response to the high number of H1B applications that were received annually, notably surpassing the visa quotas.

When the number of visa applications exceeds the annual visa cap, the USCIS will randomly pick the required number of petitions allotted, largely dictated by the labor condition application.

Info Icon Important: Apply as early as possible! The H1B visa cap is often reached within days of the application window opening.

What Happens if You Aren’t Selected?

If you are not selected in the H1B lottery, then USCIS will return your labor condition application as well as the filing fee. You can submit your application the next year to try and be selected again; however, you will maintain the same chance of being selected as everyone else.

Now that you understand the H1B visa lottery and H1B visa caps, let’s take a closer look at how to qualify and apply for an H1B visa to fulfill a specialty occupation.

The H-1B Cap

The United States meticulously manages its intake of skilled foreign professionals for various institutions through the H1B visa program, and a crucial aspect of this management is the visa cap or quota. Here’s a snapshot of how the numbers stack up for 2023:

Visa CategoryNumber Of Visas AllocatedExplanation
Overall Cap85,000The total number of H1B visas available for the fiscal year 2023 represents the annual limit.
Bachelor’s Degree Allocation65,000Out of the overall cap, 65,000 visas are set aside for applicants holding a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. These visas are available for individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree.
Advanced Degree Beneficiaries20,000In addition to the 65,000 visas for bachelor’s degree holders, an extra allocation of 20,000 visas is exclusively reserved for individuals who have earned advanced degrees (such as master’s or higher) from accredited U.S. institutions. This allocation prioritizes individuals with higher education qualifications.

The rationale behind this structured approach to managing occupations is twofold: ensuring an equitable distribution of opportunities and effectively managing the influx of high-skilled talent into the U.S. This system aims to balance the needs of U.S. employers with broader workforce and economic considerations.

Info Icon Important: If you have an advanced degree from a U.S. institution, remember there’s a separate quota for you, which might increase your chances of getting the visa.

H-1B Visa Lottery 2024 Key Dates

There are a number of key dates to note if you are planning on applying for an H1B visa in 2024, a year when specialty occupations may again be in high demand. They include:

H-1B Registration Period for FY 2024

  • Registration Opens: March 1, 2023, at noon Eastern
  • Registration Closes: March 17, 2023, at noon Eastern

Account Creation for Registrants

  • Registrants can create new accounts starting on February 21, 2023.

Beneficiary Information Submission and Registration Fee Payment

  • Beneficiary information and registration fee submission begins on March 1, 2023.

Random Selection and Notification

  • If enough registrations are received by March 17, 2023, random selection will take place.
  • Notification to account holders is expected by March 31, 2023.

Temporary Increase in Credit Card Transaction Limit

  • The daily credit card transaction limit increased from $24,999.99 to $39,999.99 per day for the FY 2024 H-1B cap season.

H-1B Petition Filing Eligibility

  • An H-1B cap-subject petition can only be filed by a petitioner whose registration for the beneficiary was selected in the H-1B registration process.
Info Icon Important: Mark your calendar and set reminders for these key dates. Missing a deadline can set you back by a year.

Eligibility Requirements for an H-1B Visa

The eligibility requirements for an H1B visa are quite stringent, particularly for those seeking to fill a specialty occupation. Here’s what’s need to qualify:

  1. Educational Qualifications: At the foundation, an applicant must possess at least a bachelor’s degree. This degree should be in a specialized domain, including but not limited to fields like engineering, computer science, or medicine.
  2. Job Offer from a U.S. Employer: Merely holding a degree isn’t sufficient. The applicant must have a confirmed job offer from a U.S.-based company prepared to sponsor their H1B visa application.
  3. Labor Conditions: The sponsoring employer has the responsibility to prove two essential points:
    • A discernible shortage of qualified U.S. professionals for the specific role.
    • Assuring that employing a foreign national won’t undermine the salary or working environment of existing U.S. workers in similar roles.
  4. Relevant Skills and Experience: Beyond academic qualifications, the applicant should possess the necessary hands-on experience and skills that align with the job’s requirements.

Once these criteria are met, the individual can apply for an H1B visa through the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) via a labor condition application.

How to Apply for an H-1B Visa?

To apply for an H1B visa, you will need to follow a few important steps.

There are four key steps, institution approval, occupation verification, labor condition application filing, and final submission, that must be taken to apply for an H1B visa, including:

  1. Applicant must find an H1B sponsor
  2. Employer must submit a Labor Conditions Approval (LCA)
  3. Employer must submit Form I-129
  4. Applicant completes an H1B visa application at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate

Below, we’ll look at each of these steps in more detail, following instructions carefully for the best outcome.

Step 1: Find an H-1B Sponsor

The H1B visa is a work visa requiring the applicant to be sponsored by a U.S. employer to apply. Therefore, someone who wishes to enter the U.S. on an H1B visa needs to gain employment from a U.S. employer who will be willing to sponsor you into the U.S.. Through their labor certification, they will essentially get the permit required for you to work legally.

When being hired for a job in the U.S., it’s important to make sure that the employer is willing to sponsor you. To ensure this, make it clear from the start of your job application process that you will require sponsorship to enter the U.S. Many employers will ask this themselves when the applicant is completing the job application, following research and knowledge about visa requirements, but if they don’t, you should bring up the topic yourself.

For more info on finding a sponsor: 6 Ways to Find an H1B Visa Sponsor

Step 2: Submit a Labor Conditions Approval (LCA)

Once a U.S. company has hired you, the employer will begin the application process by submitting an LCA, or Labor Condition Application, to the Department of Labor (DOL) electronically using the iCERT Portal System. These instructions allow the permit approval for your H1B visa to commence. The LCA provides the DOL with information about the job, such as pay, location, and working conditions.

In completing the LCA, the employer attests to the government that the employee will receive a wage that is either equal or greater than the prevailing wage for the position in the geographic area where the work will be completed and that the working conditions will not be harmful to other similarly employed workers. This is a crucial part of the labor certification process.

For more in-depth info on LCAs, check out our guide, LCA for H1B Visa: What is it, How to File, and Processing Time.

Step 3: Submit Form I-129

Once the LCA has been approved, the employer will then file the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129. To complete this step, the employer must pay the required fees and submit. Detailed instructions will be provided to prevent errors during the submission process.

  • The applicant’s resume
  • The employment agreement
  • An experience evaluation
  • Proof of the employee’s education
  • Relevant training certificates
  • Any professional membership documents
  • The required filing documents
  • A letter of support

The processing time for the petition to be processed varies depending on the service center, and the wait can take up to 3 or 4 months. However, there is premium processing available for an additional fee.

Filing form I-129 can be tricky, so be sure to check out our Complete Guide to Form I-129 to get it right.

Info Icon Important: Documentation is crucial. Double-check all forms and supporting documents for accuracy to avoid delays or rejections.

Step 4: Complete the Application at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate

Once the petition is approved, the last step is for the applicant to process their visa at their home country’s U.S. embassy office or consulate. This normally takes 2 to 3 days, but again varies based on the location. By this stage, the applicant has gone through various research and verification stages to ensure all information is accurate.

The H1B Application is filled by the applicant. In addition to the employers, employees or H1B applicants also have to complete these steps, carefully following prescribed instructions.

  1. Fill out Form DS-160
  2. Schedule an interview
  3. Pay the H1B visa fees
  4. Submit the required documents for H1B Visa.
  5. Attend the H1B interview

It is crucial to submit all required documentation accurately and within the designated filing period, which typically begins on April 1st each year. To learn more about Form DS-160, check out our guide.

How Much Does It Cost to Apply for an H-1B Visa?

Navigating the H1B visa application process? Be sure you’re aware of all the associated costs. The total expense isn’t just about the base filing fee, but also other additional charges. Here’s a breakdown:

Cost ComponentAmountExplanation
Base Filing Fee$460The foundational cost for filing the H1B petition.
ACWIA Fee (Employers with 25 or fewer employees)$750ACWIA fee for employers with 25 or fewer full-time employees.
ACWIA Fee (Employers with more than 25 employees)$1,500ACWIA fee for employers with more than 25 full-time employees.
Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee$500Fee designed to combat fraudulent applications.

It’s paramount to be proactive and stay updated, as these fees can change based on government policy adjustments. To ensure you have the most recent information, either check the official U.S. government site or conduct thorough research on the topic.To ensure the correct duration of your stay and abide by the immigration laws, it’s encouraged for you to check the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website regularly or consult with an immigration expert. Especially if you’re a business owner hoping to work in the U.S., having up-to-date information is a necessity.

4 Reasons for H-1B Visa Denial

Securing an H1B visa can be challenging, and not all applications are green-lighted. Here’s a breakdown of the four most frequent hurdles faced by applicants that could pertain to the business they intend to conduct or their prospective residence in the country:

  • Employer Authenticity Concerns: The sponsoring company might not seem like a genuine, functioning U.S. entity with the resources to employ and compensate an H1B worker adequately.
  • Ambiguous Employer-Employee Relationship: The application fails to clearly define and prove the existence of a legitimate employer-employee relationship.
  • Inadequate Applicant Qualifications: The foreign applicant doesn’t meet the stipulated educational or experiential prerequisites.
  • Job Role Mismatch: The job role offered doesn’t align with the criteria of requiring “specialized knowledge.”

It’s imperative for both employers and applicants to meticulously address these points to bolster their chances of a successful H1B visa application. As a hopeful citizen, taking these details into account can significantly increase your chances of securing the visa.

How Long is an H1-B Visa Valid?

If the H1B visa application is approved, an H1B visa is valid for three years and can be extended to up to six more years. There are also exceptions that can extend the visa duration for even longer, depending on the type of business being conducted.

How to Renew an H-1B Visa

The process for renewing an H1B visa in 2023 involves several steps. First, the applicant must gather all necessary documents, including a valid passport, proof of residence, a copy of their current H1B visa, and any supporting documentation such as employment letters or educational certificates.

Navigating H-1B Status After Job Termination

H1B visa holders, who are residents in the US and contributing to the business landscape, must tread carefully when it comes to job termination, whether voluntary or involuntary. As a potential citizen, the implications can be significant.

  1. Immediate Consequences: Upon quitting or being dismissed, you are presented with a few options:
    • Secure a new job with an employer willing to sponsor an H1B transfer.
    • Seek a change in your immigration status to another visa category.
    • Prepare to leave the U.S. and return to your home country.
  2. Grace Period: Fortunately, there’s a 60-day grace period during which you can pursue the above options or initiate the process for permanent residency through a green card application.
  3. Employer’s Responsibility: If you face deportation, the onus is on your employer to cover your return transportation expenses, unless you willingly decide to exit the company.
  4. Reapplication for H1B: If, post-deportation, you land another job with a U.S.-based employer, you can certainly aim for another H1B visa. However, be prepared to start from scratch, navigating the application process anew.

It’s always prudent to seek legal counsel if faced with such circumstances, to ensure you’re making informed decisions and safeguarding your rights, especially concerning your residence and business interests.

What Happens After an H-1B Expires?

Once an H1B visa holder reaches the end of the duration of their permitted stay in the U.S, as a citizen hopeful, it’s decision time. What are the avenues available? Let’s delve in:

  • Homeward Bound: One straightforward option is to pack up and return to one’s home country, marking the end of their U.S. journey.
  • Permanent Residency Route: Alternatively, they might consider setting down roots in the U.S. by applying for a green card. The H1B visa uniquely positions its holders for this, thanks to its “dual intent” nature. Unlike many visa categories, the H1B doesn’t just cater to temporary residency; it also entertains aspirations of permanent settlement. This means while still on an H1B visa, one can embark on their green card application journey.

Interested in understanding the intricacies of transitioning from an H1B to a green card? Dive into our Complete Guide to the H1B to Green Card Process for a comprehensive overview.

Learn More About H-1B Visas

H-1B Visa FAQ

Below, you will find some common questions about the H-1B visa, its duration, resident and business stipulations, and their answers.

When is the H-1B lottery registration period, and when will I be informed of the results?

The registration period for the H-1B lottery typically runs from March 1st to March 17th. You, as a citizen hopeful, can expect to receive notification regarding your selection for an H-1B visa by March 31, 2023.

How can I check the results of the H1B lottery?

To check the results of the H1B lottery, you can log in to your USCIS online account. Your account will provide the status of your application and give insight into your duration of stay and potential residence.

Is it possible to expedite the processing of my H-1B visa?

Yes, you can expedite the processing of your H1B visa through premium processing. This involves submitting Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing Service, and the associated fee either during the initial filing of Form I-129 or at a later date if you’ve already filed your petition.

Can I travel outside the U.S. while holding an H1B visa?

If you possess a valid H-1B visa, as a future citizen, you can travel to a U.S. port of entry and request entry into the United States. You can re-enter the U.S. after temporary travel as long as your H-1B visa remains valid. It’s advisable to carry evidence of your business endeavours, employment, or visa validity when crossing the border.

When can I begin the application process for my H-1B visa?

If you find yourself hailing from one of many countries and your H-1B visa falls under the annual cap, you’ll need to document your interest by registering online first. If selected in the lottery, residents in your country and your employer can proceed to petition for an H-1B visa. Details about the filing period and location will be provided in your H-1B Registration Selection Notice from USCIS, a document that is crucially essential. You can apply for your visa up to six months before your intended start date.

Where should I submit my H1-B visa application?

In the exciting event that your H-1B visa is subject to the annual cap and you’ve been selected, your selection notice will specify the USCIS address where you should file your application. If you’re not subject to the H-1B cap (e.g., if you’re employed by an institute of higher education), you as a resident can file your application at the USCIS California service center.

Can I extend my H-1B visa?

H-1B visas are typically valid for a span of three years, with the possibility of extensions for up to a total of six years. To extend your H-1B status, your employer from the countries you’re residing in will need to submit Form I-129, along with supporting documents and the required filing fee. It’s important to note that extensions are not guaranteed.

Is it possible to transition from an H-1B visa to a green card?

Yes, the H-1B visa allows for the pursuit of a green card, an alluring document residents worldwide aspire to hold. Learn more about this process through Boundless.

Who is eligible to sponsor the H-1B visa?

Any U.S.-based employer, even those from the smallest of countries, with an IRS Tax ID Number can sponsor an H-1B visa on your behalf.

Can I apply for an H-1B visa without having a job offer in advance?

To apply for an H-1B visa, you typically need a job offer since it’s an employment-based visa. Your employer, no matter their location or the countries they operate in, will need to file certain forms on your behalf.

Is there a current ban on H-1B visas?

No, the ban on H-1B visas that was issued in June 2020 has expired, and you as a resident can now proceed with preparing your H-1B visa application.

Can my family join me if I hold an H-1B visa?

Yes, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 may be eligible for H-4 visas to accompany you to the United States. More information on the H-4 process, a document many countries’ residents appreciate, can be found in Boundless’ guide.

How long can I stay and work in the U.S. with an H-1B visa?

An H-1B visa is initially valid for three years in countries around the globe and can be extended for up to a total of six years.

Can my spouse work while I’m on an H-1B visa?

The employment eligibility of your spouse depends on their visa status. If your spouse holds an H-4 visa, they may be eligible to apply for employment authorization, especially if you’re on the path to obtaining a green card, a document residents across different countries fervently desire.

What is the difference between the H-1B and H-1B cap?

The H-1B cap refers to the annual limit on the number of H-1B visas issued. Currently, the cap is set at 65,000 visas per fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 visas available for those with a master’s degree or higher, regardless of the countries they come from.

Who is eligible for the H1B1 visa?

The H-1B1 visa is designed for nationals of Chile and Singapore who work in specialty occupations. The annual cap for H1B1 visas is 6,800, with 1,400 allocated for Chilean nationals and 5,400 for Singaporean nationals, showcasing an impressive level of international collaboration between the countries.

What is the minimum salary requirement for filing an H-1B visa?

To file for an H-1B visa, the employer must demonstrate they will pay either the prevailing wage or the actual wage, whichever is higher. The prevailing wage is the salary paid to similar workers in the same area, while the actual wage is what the employer pays to employees in similar positions across different countries.

What should I do if I lose my job while on an H-1B visa?

If you lose your job while on an H-1B visa due to layoffs or economic conditions, you have a 60-day grace period to leave the U.S as per the document’s conditions, a fact residents across the globe should be mindful of. Additionally, under certain conditions, H-1B workers may be able to change employers without losing their visa status. Learn more about what to do if you lose your job while on a work visa.

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