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H1B Visa Information

Overview of H1B

The H1B visa (also commonly know as H1 Visa) is a non-immigrant employment based visa for workers coming to the USA to perform a specialty occupation. H1B is an employer sponsored visa, an employer must offer a job and apply for H1 visa petition with US immigration dept. This approved petition is a work permit allows a foreign worker to get visa stamp and work in USA for that employer. The H1B status allows foreign workers to work in the USA for a maximum of six years. It is granted for three years and can only be renewed once for an additional three years. Quotas are set every year for the H1B visa by the government.

The employer must file the petition on the individuals behalf. An employer can be an individual, partnership, or corporation. Applications are for a specific job only. The visa is only valid for work with the employer that filed the original petition. If applicant changes job or location of the job a new H1B visa petition must be filed.
 

H1 B Application Status

INS has started Online status check for any of your case filed with INS.

If you have an application receipt number, you can check the status of your case online.
All you need is your 13 digit receipt number.

For each visa application, INS assigns a unique 13 digit alphanumeric number. There are 4 INS service centers to handle H1B applications. The first 3 character of your receipt signifies the particular service center, where the application is being processed. They can be any one of WAC, EAC, SRC, and LIN.
For instance application submitted to California state will have a receipt number starting with WAC.

Here is the Online Tracker from INS: Check your Status Online

You may obtain case status by calling 1 (800) 375-5283, and following the automated instructions. Please have your receipt number ready.

Qualification for H1B

The H1B visa is for workers coming to the USA to perform a specialty occupation. H1B is an employer sponsored visa, an employer must offer a job and apply for your H1 visa petition with US immigration dept.

A specialty occupation requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and a bachelor's degree or the equivalent in the specific specialty. Occupation like Engineers, Doctors/Physicians, Managers, Financial Manager, Analyst, Business Managers, Sales Managers, Art , entertainment, Lawyers, CPA, Architect, Health Care professionals, Technicians etc. may qualify for specialty occupations.

Education requirements

To qualify for the H-1B visa category, the prospective H-1B employee must hold a U.S. bachelor's or higher degree, or the equivalent.  Employee must prove that his/her education is equivalent to the minimum requirements of a U.S. bachelor's degree. Sometimes work experience can be substituted for part of a degree. If the foreign degree is 3 years bachelor's degree , work experience in same or similar field /occupation can be considered equivalent to one year additional education to make to 4 year of equivalent US degree. There are organizations that specialize in certifying your credentials.

In addition to the academic qualifications, the individual must be fully qualified to lawfully perform the duties of the position offered. In occupations that require licensure or professional credentials (e.g., doctor, dentist, attorney, CPA, architect, registered nurse), the individual must already hold such qualification before the H1B visa petition can be filed. Also, the job in question must require a four-year degree. H1B visa will be denied if the applicant has a four-year degree but the job does not require one.

Spouses and children under the age of 21 may be eligible to come to the U.S. for the duration of the H1B's authorized stay and will be granted H-4 visas.  See H4 Visa for details.

How to get H-1 B Visa:
You will have to find a qualified job in the USA that will sponsor H1B visa  and US employer will file H1B petition for you

Requirements For Employee (or Applicant)

  • Completed Non-immigration Visa Application Form DS-156
  • Completed Form DS-157. Each applicant in India taking appointment through VFS need to fill and provide DS157 irrespective of their age or gender.
  • Application visa fee original receipt issued by HDFC bank.( If you are applying in India)
  • Copy of interview appointment letter which you get at the time of setting appointment with VFS.
  • Original H1 approval form I-797.
  • Offer letter from the company in USA.
  • Make sure you have a valid passport from your country
  • Original Experience Certificates from all your previous employment's.
  • All other legal papers you received with your H1 documents, like from I129.
  • Two photographs 2 and 2 inches square (50 mm square) for each applicant, showing full face, without head covering, against a light background. To be used in the application Form.

Note: Get the  visa stamp on your passport - A visa stamp can be obtained at any United States consulate in your home country.  Procedure to get an appointment for visa stamping purpose varies for each country. 

Get Your Ticket - After the the visa stamp the applicant can get a ticket. Travel agents require the visa in order to issue the tickets

H1 B Information For Employers:
  1. Prospective employers must obtain a Labor Condition Application (LCA) and have it certified by the U.S. Department of Labor before the H1B petition can be filed.
  2. The prevailing wage and actual wage must be determined and compared. The prevailing wage is determined by the State Employment Security Agency by completing a form that asks the employer for the responsibilities, skills and experience needed for the job. The actual wage is determined by comparing other workers in the same positions with the same level of experience. The employer is required to pay the higher of the prevailing wage and actual wage.
  3. The LCA can be submitted after the prevailing wage has been determined. LCA is a two-page form that contains information about the employer. By completing and signing the form, the employer is agreeing to pay the higher of the two wages, that the employment of this individual will not adversely affect the conditions of other workers and that there is no strike for their occupation at the workplace. The employers must also agree that they will offer H1B visa holders the same benefits such as health, life, medical, retirement, stock options and bonuses that they offer their other employees.  The form can me mailed or faxed to the Department of Labor (DOL).
  4. The employer must post notices at two conspicuous places at their business of the H1B filing for ten days or provide notice of the filing to the collective bargaining representative for their employees. The LCA form can also be used for the actual posting.
  5. After the DOL accepts the LCA, then the employer can file an applicants H1B petition. If the applicant is out of the country, the INS will send notification of the  approval to the U.S. consulate in applicants country and applicant can apply there using the I-129 form. Applicant must provide supporting documents in his/her petition such as the accepted LCA, a letter from employer describing the position, educational transcripts etc. The employer must include the fee for the petition.
  6. Employment can only start after the INS has issued the appropriate visa. Processing times vary (it can take 3- 4 months) depending upon service center and the visa. If the employer can show an urgent need for the employee, INS might approve the petition sooner.


Note: The employer is responsible for the employee's return trip home incase the employment is terminated.

Premium Processing
 

What is the Premium Processing Service?
The Premium Processing Service allows expedite the procedures for visa processing. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS, formerly the INS) guarantees that it will process the visa petition within 15 days under this service. There is a $1,000 fee that your employer must pay to the USCIS in order to use this service. Also, a separate phone number and e-mail address is provided for companies using the expedited processing to check on their status or ask questions.

Who can apply for Premium Processing and how?
Only your employer or business can apply for this service. You cannot do so as an individual. Your employer must complete Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing) and pay the fee of $1,000. The fee should be paid by a separate check, not to be combined with the regular processing fee.
Dependent family members filing concurrently with the primary applicant under is service need not to pay any additional fee.

Where can my employer file for Premium Processing?
The Form I-907 provides addresses of Service Centers. Your petition for premium processing should be filed at the appropriate Service Center. The 15-day processing period begins when the USCIS identifies your request for premium processing.

Will the USCIS waive the $1,000 fee under special circumstances?
No, the $1,000 fee is fixed and cannot be waived for any reason. However, if the USCIS is unable to complete the processing within 15 days, the entire fee will be refunded.

Which petition and applications are part of this service?
Only Non-Immigrant Worker petitions can be processed through the premium service. The following types of petitions and applications are part of this service:
* E-1 Treaty Trader;
* E-2 Treaty Investor;
* H-1B Temporary Workers in Specialty Occupations.
* H-2A Agricultural Worker
* H-2B Temporary Worker
* H-3 Trainee
* L-1 Intra-company Transferees
* O-1 and O-2 Aliens of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement
* P-1, P-2 and P-3 Athletes and Entertainers; and
* Q-1 International Cultural Exchange Aliens.
* R-1 Temporary Workers in Religious Occupations; and
* TN NAFTA Professionals.

Is there any other way to get expedited processing besides the premium service?
Yes, the USCIS allows for expedited processing under the following circumstances:
* Severe financial loss to a company or individual,
* Extreme emergent situation,
* Humanitarian situation,
* Department of Defense or national interest situation, or
* INS error.

 

H1 Visa Revalidation / Re-stamping
 

If you hold work visa like H or L you may need to get the re-stamping upon the extension of your expired visa.

Re stamping can be done at any US consulate out side of USA. While some neighboring country allow to do re-stamping for foreign nationals , It is recommended to get the re-stamping done in your home country.

What is the Process

The process of re-stamping is same as any new US visa stamping, except that there is flexibility and different/ min documents requirement. Even though though it is re-stamping applicant need to appear for personal interview at the US consulate.

In India you can take appointment to any US consulate ( Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, or Kolkatta) . Consulate also has priority/urgent appointment quota for people who are visiting India and need to do re-stamping.

Document required for re-stamping( H or L visa)

  • Interview appointment letter.
  • Original approved petition I797.
  • Valid passport. You are recommended to have passport valid for travel for at least six months beyond your date of entry into the U.S.
  • Original employment verification letter with description of your proposed duties.
     
  • One photograph as per specification
  • Original signed form DS-156 ( You will get this printed while talking appointment with VFS)
  • Original form DS-157 ( You will get this printed while talking appointment with VFS)
  • Valid HDFC Bank visa fee receipt.
  • Demand draft for Issuance Fee . 
  • Applicant applying with a blanket (L1) petition, a demand draft for Rs 22,000/- favoring�American Consulate General, Mumbai � as applicable. DDs drawn on co- operative banks are not accepted.
  • Original degree certificates.
     

For Spouse / Dependent Children ( Re-stamping of dependent visa)
 

  • Passport, visa fee receipt issued by HDFC bank and interview appointment letter, One photograph as per specification, completed form DS156, DS-157, Visa issuance fee.
  • Copy of original Notice of Action Form I-797 of the Principal Applicant(H1)
    (if applying separately).
  • Photo copy of the passport of the spouse and photocopy of the Principal Applicant’s valid visa (if applying separately).
     

Visa Revalidation and H1 status

H1 status and Visa stamping both are different things. H1 approval is the authorization to work in US, and Visa stamped on your passport is authorization to enter into USA.

H1 visa holder can stay in USA for maximum up to 6 years. Then he/ she needs to leave the country for at least a year, before re-entering into US on H1 again.

Mostly H1 authorizations (form I-797) are issued for 3 years, so the Visa stamped on your passport reflects the date close to this expiry date, unless consulate gives you a Visa for duration less than the Date on your H1 form.
 

H1 Transfer
 
Your H-1B can be transferred through the new company. Your new company files an application with the INS, for your H1 transfer. You might be asked to submit the following documents:
  • One or two latest pay stubs.
  • Copy of your existing H1 approval.
  • Passport copies.
  • Copies of I-94 records.
  • Copy of SSN.
  • Latest Resume.
  • Copy of existing valid visa.
  • Copy of all your Diploma/Degrees.

Once it is submitted with the INS, it takes normally 3 to 8 weeks, or in some case a little more time. The time varies depending upon the location of employment.

Frequently Asked questions?

I am currently on H-1B through Company A. I am considering another offer from company B. Do I need a new H-1B? When can I start working for company B?

No, you don't need a new H1B, the existing one will be transferred.
 According to recent new H1B bill you may join company B, upon the receipt of you H1B transfer case.

Upon approval of H1 transfer, is there any time limit to join the new company?

Once your H1 transfer is approved, there is no joining time limit. It is totally up to you, when you want to report to work for the new Company.

Does H1 Cap affects H1 transfer process?

No, H1 transfer is a separate process, and it has nothing to do with H1 cap. It is a transfer of your existing H1 approval to some other company and not a new H1B.

I just got my approval notice for my H-1B transfer. It doesn't have a new I-94. What should I do?

I-94 is issued when you enter US, which contains a specific expiry date. It can only be issued if the existing I-94 has expired. In case of H1 transfer, it is possible that your I-94 is still valid. Hence, you won't be issued another.

Do you need to inform your present employer about your Visa Transfer? Is there any way that my current employer can come to know about my H1b transfer?

No, its not required to inform your current employer, and neither he will come to know about the transfer.

Is there any limit for number of H1 transfers?

There is no such limit, you can apply for as many transfers as you want.

Can a person apply for H-1 transfer through more than one company at the same time?

Yes

What if a person holding a H1 for Company A, applies for H1 transfer through Company B, and once the transfer is approved, he changes his mind and doesn't join this company B? Can he continue to work for his previous company A?

Yes (A person can have multiple H1, but can work for only one company at a time.)

Please contact an Immigration Attorney for any specific question or your can ask on a question on the discussion board on this site.


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