H1-B Nonimmigrant Visa for Professional Workers
What is the H1-B Visa?
US companies employ people from around the world. Any foreign national who wishes to work in the United States needs a work visa before he/she can enter the US. There are many types of work visas. One of them is a specialist visa meant for professionals.
This is known as the H1-B visa. Earlier this visa was known as H1 visa before it was split up in 1990 into H1-A for nurses and H1-B for professional workers. There are a limited number of visas available under this category.
There are 65,000 H1-B visas offered every year to new professionals and 20,000 additional H1-B visas for professionals who have a US academic degree. This is a non-immigrant visa, meaning the visa holder can stay only for the duration for which the visa is valid.
Once the visa expires, the visa holder has to leave the United States. Due to high demand for this visa category, the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) holds a lottery to award visas.
Eligibility for H1-B Visa
This is a visa meant for professional workers, who work in a specialty occupation. Computing, Biotechnology, Engineering, Medical, Law, Education, Economics are some of the specialty occupations. The applicant needs to have a bachelor’s degree from the US or an equivalent degree from anywhere else.
The applicant must also have expertise in the specialty area and have a license to practice (as applicable).
The key point to note here is that an individual cannot apply for a visa under this category. The visa holder must be sponsored by a US employer. The employer has to file Form I-129 (Petition for a Non-immigrant worker) with the USCIS and get it approved before the visa holder can enter the US.
H1-B Visa Validity
The H1-B visa is valid for a period of three years. After this period, it can be renewed for another three years. On completion of six years, the employer must re-apply for a fresh visa.
Regulations covering the H1-B visa
The H1-B visa has regulations that govern its usage. It is important to know and adhere to these. The following are some of the regulations:
- The visa holder can work only for the employer who has sponsored the visa. Working for any other employer is illegal and can lead to action.
- Visa holders can work for more than one employer if Form I-129 is submitted and approved for each employer separately.
- While working for an employer, the visa holder can be deputed to work for another company on the contract.
- This is a multiple-entry visa, meaning the visa holder can exit and re-enter the US any number of times.
- The visa holder can go on leave and vacations just like any other employee.
- The visa can be transferred to another employer, subject to processing and approval by the USCIS.
- The H1-B visa holder can bring his/her spouse and children under 21 years to the US on H4 visa. They can stay for as long as the H1-B visa holder is eligible to stay. They can study in the USA, but cannot work, unless special permission is given.
- The H1-B visa holder is eligible to apply for a green card. Form I-485 needs to be submitted for the same.
- In case the contract with the employer is terminated, the visa holder has a grace period of 60 days, within which he/she can try to change the legal status or leave the country.
- The H1-B visa holder can buy real estate and property and even invest in the stock market.
The Trump administration is planning reforms is the H1-B visa to give preference to skilled persons. The impact of this would be known in the years to come.
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