H1B Visa Process: Step-by-Step Explanation on How to Get an H1B Visa
The H1B is a powerful visa that allows foreign nationals to work in the United States in “specialty occupations.” This guide will provide you with more information about the H1B visa process.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. My team and I are happy to provide any information. Additionally, my team and I would be happy to assist you through this process.
1. H1B Visa Overview
2. Registration Process
3. Labor certification
5. Consular Processing
6. Admission to the USA
1. H1B Visa Overview
The H1B is a powerful visa that allows foreign nationals to work in the United States in “specialty occupations.” There are 65,000 H1B visas allocated per year, plus 20,000 additional visas for those with advanced US degrees (US masters and up). You can stay in the US for up to 6 years, with an initial 3-year validity period and 3-year extension.
To be eligible for an H1B visa, you must have a job offer from a US employer willing to sponsor you, the job offer must be for a “specialty occupation”, and you must meet all qualifications for the job (e.g., education and licensure). A “specialty occupation” is defined as a job requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher (or the foreign equivalent).
If you are eligible for the H1B visa, there are many benefits to the visa. One big benefit to the H1B visa is that it is a dual intent visa. This means you can simultaneously seek permanent residence while on the H1B visa. Another advantage is its portability. This means you can transfer US employers while on the H1B visa.
There are five main steps in the H1B application process.
● H1B Registration
● Labor Condition Application (LCA)
● I-129 Petition
● Consular processing or Change of Status
● Admission to the USA
Each of these steps will be discussed in more depth below. Additionally, my team and I would be happy to answer any questions. It is also recommended that you have an immigration lawyer assist you with this application process. My team and I are experienced with H1B visas and would be happy to help you.
2. Registration Process
The first step to apply for an H1B is the registration process. This is a new process as of 2020. The registration is done by the employer. As previously mentioned, there is a cap on available H1B visas. Presently, there are more qualified applicants than available visas. For this reason, a lottery system is used.
Applicants must register with USCIS between the first three weeks of March (approximately). You can begin setting up your account on February 24th. You will sign up for registration by clicking here. You will have to submit some basic information about the petitioner and the beneficiary. It will cost $10 to complete this registration process. You are encouraged to seek an immigration lawyer to assist you with this process. My team and I would be happy to help you register.
On March 31st, USCIS will announce which applicants were chosen in the lottery system. If you qualify, you will be able to submit a petition beginning April 1st. If you are not chosen, you will not be able to continue with the H1B visa application process.
The purpose of this registration period is to minimize the cost and time spent for people not chosen in the lottery system. In the past, you would have to complete the entire petition to be eligible for the lottery. With the registration process, you only have to provide some basic information. This creates a more streamlined, efficient process.
The registration process is random and we cannot guarantee you will be chosen. Nonetheless, my team and I are committed to giving you the best chance of being chosen possible. More information about the registration process can be found by clicking here or here.
3. Labor Condition Application
The second step in the H1B visa application process is to submit a labor condition application. This is also done by the employer. You are encouraged to work with an immigration lawyer to complete the application. You will complete Form ETA-9035 and send it electronically to the Department of Labor.
This can be done before or during the registration process, but many choose to wait in case they are not chosen in the lottery system. My team and I would be happy to assist you through this process and help you determine the best time to submit your LCA.
Form ETA-9035 will request information regarding the visa, the employer, the beneficiary, the attorney, and the job. It requests information about the job duties, the wages, and the work conditions. This is done to ensure that the foreign beneficiary will be treated fairly and to ensure that the American labor market is not hurt by hiring the foreign beneficiary.
In particular, it is important to note that the DOL will not approve your application if there are any labor disputes or strikes at the worksite. Additionally, employers with 50+ employees, and 50% or more of whom have H1B, L-1A, or L-1B status must note this on their labor certification application. They will be subject to an additional fee. More information about this can be found by clicking here.
More information about the labor condition application process can be found by clicking here. My team and I would also be happy to answer any questions you may have about it.
Those chosen in the registration process may submit an H1B petition. This is also completed by the employer. This will require compiling several documents and mailing them to USCIS. The appropriate USCIS Service Center will vary depending on your employment location. An immigration lawyer can assist you with the petition process.
The first requirement for the petition is Form I-129. This form requests additional information about the petitioner, the beneficiary, and the position. More information about Form I-129 can be found by clicking here. Please note you will also need to complete Supplement H of Form I-129.
The second requirement for the petition is the exhibit packet. This should include a copy of the biographic page of the beneficiary’s passport, a copy of the approved labor condition application, a support statement from the US company sponsoring the beneficiary, and a cover letter from your attorney. Other documents may also be appropriate to include in this section. This could include evidence of lawful status, resumes, transcripts, evidence of awards, or statements from other professional associations. An immigration lawyer can help you determine what is appropriate to include in your individual application.
USCIS can approve, reject your application, or request additional information. You can also pay for premium processing. Assuming USCIS does not submit a Request for Evidence, you will hear a response within 15 days. You must include Form I-907 in your exhibit packet if you choose to do this. If you do not pay for premium processing, you will hear a response in approximately 4-6 months.
5. Consular Processing and Change of Status
If your petition is approved, you will receive Form I-797. At this point, the beneficiary should schedule an appointment at their local US consulate. If they are already inside the US and filed as a “Change of Status” – your status will automatically change to H1B. To get an H1B visa stamp, it will require submitting Form DS-160. Please note the visa stamping appointment must be no more than 90 days before you will begin working in the United States.
When your interview date arrives, you will go to an interview with a US consular officer. You should bring Form I-797. You should also bring evidence of your qualifications. This may include transcripts, resumes, and evidence of qualifications. Different US consulates will have different requirements. Your own individual situation may also affect what documents will be appropriate. You can find more information by going to the website for your local US embassy. My team and I would also be happy to help you prepare for your interview.
If approved by a US consular officer, you will have H1B visa status.
Please note that some people with previous lawful status in the United States may request a change of status rather than going through the consular processing process. This is especially common for people with F-1 student visas, but it may affect people with a variety of visas. If this applies to you, my team and I would be happy to provide you with more information.
6. Admission to the United States
Once you have been approved, you are eligible to come to the United States and begin work. The start date for the job must be no earlier than October 1st. You should bring your passport, H1B visa, and Form I-797 Approval Notice with you. Upon arrival in the United States, you will receive an electronic I-94 card. You should confirm that the dates on your I-94 card match your H1B visa. Your H1B status should be valid for up to 3 years.
You should now have a better sense of the H1B visa application process. Please note that this is only a general outlining of the process. Individuals are encouraged to work with an immigration lawyer to ensure their application is successful. My team and I have extensive experience with H1B visas and would be happy to assist you. It is valuable to begin preparation for the H1B visa as early as possible.
If you have any questions about any of the information discussed in this post or about the H1B visa in general, feel free to contact me directly. I can be reached at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I am very responsive via email and I would be happy to help you.
Michael Ashoori, Esq.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.
Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.
Got a question? Send me an email.