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The H-1B Visa Explained

Comprehensive Immigration Reform could include a doubling of H-1B visas. The H-1B visa numbers for the year 2013 remain the same. Our previous blogs have discussed this and the Washington Post reported the same earlier last week,

This post will discuss the H-1B visas and their significance to the US economy.

What is the H-1B visa?

The H-1B visa provides temporary status to live and work in the United States. It is the employer, not the worker, that files the application and, if successful, the H-1B visa is tied to that sponsoring employer. If the H-1B worker quits, is laid off, or otherwise loses the connection to the sponsoring employer, the worker must find a new H-1B sponsoring employer, change to a different visa or get a green card, or leave the United States. The H-1B visa holder must, at the least, have a bachelor's degree and must work in a "specialty occupation, "defined as an occupation requiring at least a Bachelor's Degree.

Are there deadlines and other restrictions with the H-1B visa?

Yes, there is a 65,000 quota cap on the number of H1B visas with a special exemption for 20,000 people with a master's degree or higher from an American university (i.e, a total of 85,000). The quota traditionally fills up quickly soon after applications open - last year, applications were accepted starting April 2, 2012 and were closed on June 11, 2012. This year, applications open on April 1, 2013 with expectations to close as soon as April 5. Family members do not count against the visa quota.

Are there any fees for filing an H-1B application?

Yes. The fees from this year range from $1,575 to $4,325, with an additional $1,225 for premium processing. Most of the fees are covered by employers, but in some instances it is appropriate for the employee to pay some part of the fee. The fee does not include attorney fees, travel costs, etc.

Can an H-1B visa holder eventually get a green card?

Yes, but indirectly. H-1B visa holders may adjust status to get legal permanent residence through either a qualifying relative or an employer. This is how most temporary visa holders adjust their status.

When are H-1B visa holders not subject to the annual cap H-1B visa holders who spent more than one year outside of U.S. and did not use up their entire six-year term can choose to be re-admitted for the "remainder" of initial six-year period without being subject to the H-1B visa cap of 85,000. In addition, H-1B employees of hospitals, research and educational institutes, and non-profit organizations are exempt from the annual cap. This means that these employers can petition for an H-1B visa for their employees any time of the year.

Furthermore, family members of H-1B visa holders that come under the H-4 status will not count against the six-year maximum period if the family member chooses to pursue an H-1B visa of their own.

Why are H-1B visas so important?

H-1B Visas are one of the key ways technology companies, from start-ups to Google, hire international talent. Although the H-1B visa can be used for a variety of occupations and not just tech jobs, the fact that Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are backing this reform shows how important the issue is for the technology sector. However, as the H-1B visa requires a bachelor's degree or higher and a position in a "specialty occupation," H-1B visa reform could impact a large variety of industries.

If you would like to discuss your H-1B visa case or have any questions about the process, feel free to contact our office and an expert immigration attorney will assist you!

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