The H1B Process Explained, Step by Step

Updated on August 14, 2023
At a Glance: During the processing of an H1B visa, there are various possible statuses. If filed under premium processing, the initial status is “Case Was Received and A Receipt Notice Was Emailed.” For normal processing, it is received via postal service. The process can take weeks to months, but can be expedited for a fee. USCIS may request additional evidence or refund certain fees, which is common. The requested information should be provided promptly. If the petition is denied, a denial letter will be received, but it’s not the end as one can try again next year.

You have applied for the H1B lottery process and now you are asking yourself: How does the H1B lottery process actually work? When and how do I get my approval? What happens after my approval? What are the important steps during the process I should know about? More questions rush into your head as you find yourself in the rabbit hole of H1B curiosity.

These are all normal questions many H1B petitioners ask themselves once they have finally applied. It isn’t always easy finding clear answers to the questions that rain in on you while going through the H1B process.

In order to help you with your questions and get you through this process with ease, we have written this H1B guideline for you. In this article, we will give you a full explanation of the H1B visa process, from the time of petitioning until the very end of your approval.

First, we are going to talk about the different statuses your visa might go through during processing, then we will talk about what you can expect in your H1B process. After our explanation, we tie loose ends with a flow chart that outlines the entire process for you.

H1B Visa Statuses During Processing

Possible H1B Visa Statuses:

  • Case Was Received and A Receipt Notice Was Emailed
  • Case Was Received
  • Request for Additional Evidence Notice was mailed
  • Response to USCIS’s Request for Evidence Was Received
  • Case Was Approved and My Decision Was Emailed
  • Case Was Approved
  • Decision Notice Mailed
  • Error: The application Receipt Number is invalid
  • Name was updated
  • Fees will be Refunded

Above you can see different statuses your visa petition might go through during processing. Your status depends on whether you have filed for premium processing or normal processing.

For example, if you decided to file for premium processing, your first status would be “Case Was Received and A Receipt Notice Was Emailed.” USCIS only sends out emails for premium processing. For normal processing, the applicant would receive the information via postal service. Keep in mind that premium processing procedure is slightly different than normal processing.

For instance, regular processing of H1B petitions do not have time limits and can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to process. There are cases that even push the 1-year mark of processing so your patience is key in this procedure.

Cases can be expedited, however, to 15 calendar days for those willing to drop the grand it takes to get a faster response. It is up to you and your employer to evaluate what is in the best interest of the company to do when it comes to premium processing. You can pay for it yourself as well if you are just too anxious and want an answer as soon as possible.

Now, before we get into the details of each status and the rest of the H1B process, we want to highlight two things that happen in the H1B process that throws people into a pool of worry and grief that we want to clear up for you.

USCIC Sending Back Fees, Requestion Additional Evidence

Why is the USCIS Sending Back Fees and Requesting More Information?!

Some fees that your employer paid might be refunded depending on whether or not the USCIS finds them relevant for the process. For instance, if your employer had filed additional fees, the USCIS would return the amount for those fees back to your employer.

If this happens to your employer or lawyer, it does not mean that your case has been rejected; it will not affect the processing of your case and is a common procedure in the way the USCIS deals with additional fees.

Furthermore, there are some cases where the USCIS might ask your employer or lawyer for additional information for application verification purposes. Some cases are very complex so there could be several reasons that you have received the request to submit additional evidence. Here we list some possible reasons why the USCIS might be requesting more information from you:

Reasons why you have to submit additional evidence:

  • Validation Instrument for Business Enterprises (VIBE)
  • Specialty Occupation
  • Needs of the Petitioner for the Services of the Beneficiary
  • Beneficiary Qualifications
  • Employer-Employee Relationship
  • Maintenance of Status

As you can see, there are several reasons the USCIS might need more information. We know the whole H1B visa process is already nerve-wracking enough and receiving a notice like that might make you clench your stomach. However, we ask you to not worry because it is a common occurrence for this to happen.

We will paint a picture of what the USCIS asking for more information might look like. For Let’s say the degree you have does not line up exactly with the job position described in your H1B petition. In this case, you might be asked for information to explain how relevant the degree you studied is in the job position you are going to work in.

You would just present your degree and documentation and explain why you and your degree are important for the position and why your special degree is relevant to the position.

If the USCIS requests more information for my application, how much longer will my case take to process?

For some reason, when the USCIS requests more information, applicants become weary and anxious about whether or not their petition will be successful. If this happens to you, simply provide the USCIS with the relevant information and documentation and your process will continue as normal.

When you actually get asked to submit additional information, the processing time of the information will depend on the specific case. We can not give you an exact number. The processing of the new information can take weeks, or in some cases, it can take up to months.

It’s also important to keep in mind: The faster you submit the requested information, the faster the USCIS can continue with processing the new information.

Now that we made sure you are in the clear if these things happen to you, we will be going over the different steps of the H1B lottery process. Some people are visual learners, and an outline might be helpful for you to keep up with how the process works. We provide a step by step flowchart for you below.

H1B Visa Process Flow Chart

So at the beginning of the article, we went over several statuses your petition might go through during the H1B process. Follow the chart to see where you are at in your H1B processing timeline.


What does the typical approval flow chart look like?

The look of the flowchart depends on whether the application was filed with premium processing or regular processing. As you can see here, there are differences between the two of them:

Regular Processing Flow Chart:

  1. Case was received
  2. Request for additional evidence notice was mailed
  3. Response to USCIS request for evidence was received
  4. Decision notice mailed

Premium Processing Flow Chart:

  1. Case was received and Receipt notice was emailed
  2. Request for additional evidence notice was mailed
  3. Response to USCIS request for evidence was received
  4. Case was approved and decision was emailed

How do I know if my visa petition got denied?

You might have caught onto the fact that there are always more people who apply for the H1B visa than there are actually visas to give out. This means that not everyone who applies for an H1B visa will be granted one — it all depends on the H1B visa lottery. Even if you have applied in the master’s cap category and get pooled into the second round of the regular cap lottery, it does not mean that you are guaranteed an H1B visa.

If your visa petition was not approved, you will receive a denial letter via mail and your status will state that your decision notice has already been mailed. If your status states that your name was updated, this doesn’t automatically mean that your petition has been denied.

This just might be a notice about clerical changes made to your petition and means they are still working on your case.

If Your H1B Gets Denied

Remember that it is not the end of the world if your H1B petition gets denied. You won’t be able to work and live in the United States this year, but if you are dedicated highly skilled professional, the same company might want to give you another try next year.

If the company is tired of the H1B process, there are hundreds of other companies looking for highly-skilled employees like you! So if your dream is to live and work in the United States, don’t give up and apply again next year. Hopefully, your petition will have the winning number in next year’s lottery!

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We hope you have a better understanding of the process and we wish you the best of luck for your H1B visa process. If you have any questions or experiences you want to share with the H1B visa community, feel free to drop a comment below. Let us know if you have any other questions as well and we can help you with getting through this H1B process this year!

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Frank Gogol

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.