It’s H-1B season, and as a reminder, the H-1B visa is for professional workers coming to work in specialty occupations. Congress only allocates 65,000 visas per year and an additional 20,000 for individuals with an advanced degree from a United States university who have not previously been counted against the cap. The H-1B is often the visa of choice for companies looking to hire new professional employees, retain recent graduates working on Optional Practical Training, or transfer in professional workers from overseas.

H-1B visas have certainly been in the news and there are a number of rumors and proposals about the H-1B program. However, as of the time of this release, there are no changes to the H-1B program from last year. Please refer to our website for the latest information if there are any developments that impact the H-1B program.

Applications open on April 3 for positions that begin on Oct. 1, 2017. As with last year, visas are expected to go fast this year, and it is widely expected that the entire allotment may be gone in early April. We are encouraging our clients to start the process so that the application can be ready to be submitted as early as possible after applications open.   

Below are some frequently asked questions about H-1B visas.

H-1B Visas – Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who can qualify for H-1B visas?
A: An H-1B visa is for professionals who work in a specialty occupation. A professional is generally defined as an individual with at least a four-year bachelor’s degree, and a specialty occupation is usually defined as a job that requires some specific academic training obtained during bachelor’s degree studies in order to perform the essential functions of the job.

Q: Is there a list of specific positions that qualify for H-1B visas?
A: Yes. These include positions like information technology workers, financial professionals, engineers and physicians. However, there is flexibility in the definition, which means that individuals in a number of industries and positions can qualify.

Q: How long is the H-1B visa good for?
A: An H-1B visa is good for three years with one extension for an additional three years. H-1Bs can be extended beyond six years when an individual starts the permanent residence process before the end of the fifth year in H-1B status.

Q: Do H-1B workers need to keep a residence in their home countries?
A: No. H-1B visas have a “dual intent” feature which means that H-1B visa holders do not need to maintain a foreign residence, and may concurrently pursue permanent residence without significant travel restrictions.

Q: Can an H-1B worker be for full-time or part-time work?
A: Yes, full-time or part-time workers can qualify for an H-1B visa.

Q: Can an H-1B worker have more than one employer?
A: An H-1B visa is employer specific, but it is possible to hold H-1B visas for multiple employers simultaneously.

Q: How much do I need to pay an H-1B worker?
A: H-1B workers must be paid the “prevailing wage” for their services, either in the form of an annual salary or an hourly wage. The level of the wage depends on both the position and the work location.

Q: Can spouses and minor children accompany an H-1B worker?
A: Yes. Spouses and minor children may accompany an H-1B worker by obtaining H-4 visa status.

Q: What happens if USCIS receives more than 85,000 H-1B visa applications?
A: If there are more than 85,000 applications, the USCIS conducts a random lottery to select which applications will be accepted for processing and which applications will be returned.

Q: Does my H-1B application have to be at USCIS on April 3? Is there any advantage to getting the application to USCIS on April 3?
A: The USCIS will accept H-1B applications for the first five business days in April. If there are more than 85,000 applications, all are entered into the lottery. Applications that arrive on April 3 are not given any preference in the lottery.

Q: What happens if my application is not selected in the lottery?
A: If the application is not selected, the filing is returned along with the government filing fees.

Please contact Brad Hendrick at 303-443-8010 or at bhendrick@celaw.com if you have any questions, or if you would like to get started on securing H-1B visas for your workers in 2017.