H-1B: Temporary Professionals
The H-1B Visa is granted to foreign nationals with an occupation that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge requiring completion of a specific course of higher education. To be eligible for an H-1B Visa, an applicant must (i) have a minimum of a four-year university degree or equivalent; (ii) be paid at the “prevailing wage,” as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor; and (iii) the job must typically require a minimum four-year university degree or equivalent. Common H-1B occupations include computer professionals, teachers, physicians, engineers, architects, accountants, and health care professionals.
H-1B visas are subject to a numerical cap of 65,000 per fiscal year. In addition, 20,000 persons who obtain advanced degrees from universities in the U.S. have their own H-1B cap. Further, up to 6,800 H-1B visas are reserved for persons who are citizens of Chile and Singapore. USCIS accepts “cap-subject” H-1B petitions from employers each year starting on April 1st. Persons whose H-1B petitions are approved by the USCIS, and change their status or obtain H-1B visas abroad, may commence employment on October 1st.
Petitions are initially approved for up to 3 years but may easily be extended for an additional 3 years. The H-1B visa holder may apply for permanent residency within the U.S. and does not need to maintain a foreign residence during their period of stay. If an application for permanent residency has been submitted in a timely fashion, post-6th year extensions of H-1B status are possible.
H-4: Family Members of H-1B Visa Holder
The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 accompanying H-1B visa holders will be granted an H-4 visa. The 6 year limit for an H-1B also applies to H-4 dependents, but H-4s will get the benefit of any extension the H-1B obtains beyond the 6 years. H-4 Visa holders may not engage in employment in the U.S. but may undertake studies. Further, H-4 Visa holders are able to open bank accounts and hold a driver’s license.