The USA is undoubtedly the number one destination for migrants across the world. With an enormous employment market, a diverse economy, and a wide variety of states to choose from, the US offers a vast array of potential options for those looking to move. Like most countries, the US has a visa system that allows foreign migrants the opportunity to come to the country often to settle permanently. One visa option for highly skilled migrants looking to move to the US is the H-1B visa. In this article, we will look at the H-1B visa, assessing who can apply, how they can apply, and answering some questions that you may have about the visa route.
The H-1B visa is an employment-based US visa that allows businesses within the country to employ talented migrants. The visa is restricted to specific industries such as IT, engineering, finance, and medicine. The visa allows businesses in the US to take advantage of skills that may not be available locally, by bringing in migrants to plug specific skills gaps.
Because of the highly skilled nature of the visa, it is restricted to those who have achieved a bachelor’s degree or equivalent work experience.
The H-1B visa allows migrants the opportunity to live and work in the US for the employer for an initial period of up to three years. The visa can be extended for a further three, giving the migrants up to six years in total of leave to live and work in the country using the visa.
As well as being able to live and work in the country for the time period specified, the H-1B visa is also recognised as a “dual intent” visa. This means that the visa holder can apply for a Green Card while they are in the US. This is the ideal option for those who wish to make the US their home permanently.
Because of the generous nature of the H-1B visa, it is subject to an annual cap. This means that competition for places is tough. Each year there are only 85,000 H-1B Visas up for grabs. Only 65,000 of these go to overseas migrants. The remaining 20,000 go to speciality workers who have received advanced degrees from US academic institutions.
These places are applied for by the employer around six months before the migrant can begin working for the business, and are applied for at the beginning of the financial year. Because of the huge number of applications (the cap is always oversubscribed), the government holds a lottery for places. This means that the chances of getting to the US via this route are relatively poor.
The H-1B visa is for specialty staff who work in very specific occupations. For a job role to be eligible, it is important that not only does the migrant hold a US bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent, the job must also commonly require someone with such an academic record. These jobs often require that the applicant gains specific skills during their degree.
As well as the job requirement, the following is required of the migrant:
If you cannot meet these eligibility criteria, then there may be alternative options such as the H-2B visa that is suited to a wider range of roles and industries. If you are looking to move to the US office of a company that you are already employed by, you may also be interested in the L-1 visa.
The H-1B visa is unique in a way that the employer is actually the one who makes the application. To be considered for an H-1B visa, you will first need to find a suitable sponsor in the US. If they feel that you are the applicant they wish to take on, the sponsor then starts the process by lodging an application. However, you will also need to fill in form I-129H (Petition for a nonimmigrant worker). Our team can help to manage the entire process, working with both you and your prospective employer to ensure that all paperwork has been completed correctly. This gives your application the very best chance of success.
Once the sponsor completes their application there is a wait time of anywhere between two and six months for approval (unless a premium service is used). If approval is given, the migrant will need to visit their local embassy/consulate to complete the process and receive their visa. Once you have received your visa, you can begin the process of relocating to your chosen location in the US and begin working.
See also 'Top tips on how to find US work visa sponsor employers' here.
One of the major benefits of the H-1B visa is the ability to bring certain family members with you to the US. You can bring a spouse and/or your children (under 21 years of age) to the country using an H-4 visa. It will entitle them to remain in the US for as long as you hold your H-1B visa.
While your relatives may join you in the US, they cannot work. Unfortunately, one major drawback of the H-4 visa is the inability to take on employment. This means that you will need to prove that you can provide for your family members during their stay in the US.
Despite the drawbacks, H-4 visa holders are entitled to other benefits of living in the US, such as being able to attend schools, learning to drive and opening bank accounts.
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