The H-1B Visa is a type of nonimmigrant work visa for specialty workers. Although it is a nonimmigrant visa, an H-1B visa holder may have the intent to immigrate; he or she can apply for and obtain a green card while holding the visa. Specialty workers are those who work in jobs requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a particular field. They must hold at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in the area in which a United States employer hopes to employ them. Examples of specialty occupations that often qualify for an H-1B visa include: computer programmers, engineers, biotechnologists, and accountants. Fashion models also qualify if they are "of distinguished merit and ability."
If you are interested in sponsoring a specialty worker or you have questions regarding your H-1B visa, we recommend that you contact the experienced Maryland work visas lawyer at the office of Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC for help with this process.H-1B Program Overview
The H-1B program helps employers who cannot find qualified workers from within the U.S. workforce for a particular job to hire qualified foreign nationals or nonimmigrant workers. Certain standards are in place, however, to ensure that similarly employed U.S. citizens are not adversely affected by the employment of a nonimmigrant worker.
Under current law, a maximum of 65,000 foreign nationals may be issued H-1B visas or provided H-1B status every year. 20,000 foreign nationals who hold a master’s or higher degree from U.S. universities are exempt from this cap.H-1B Application Process
An employer’s first step in obtaining an H-1B visa for a specialty worker is to file a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor (DOL). The employer must certify that it will:
- Pay the nonimmigrant specialty worker at least the local prevailing wage or else the employer's actual wage, whichever is higher, compensate him or her for nonproductive time, and offer the same benefits offered to similar workers at the company;
- Provide working conditions that don’t adversely affect working conditions for similarly situated workers;
- Not employ the specialty worker at a location where striking or lock-outs are occurring; and
- Provide notice of the intent to hire an H-1B worker on or within 30 days before the date the Labor Condition Application is filed to bargaining representatives of workers in the occupation in which the H-1B worker will be employed. Absent such a representative, the employer must post notices in two conspicuous places at the employer’s establishment or provide electronic notice.
The DOL reviews Labor Condition Applications within 7 working days to make sure they are complete and free of errors. After the DOL certifies the Labor Condition Application, the employer must submit an H-1B petition to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition must include the certified Labor Condition Application, fees, copies of educational degrees, copies of immigration documents, and company information.Leaving Sponsored Employment
A specialty worker on an H-1B visa who leaves the job that was offered by the sponsoring employer must either apply for a change of status, be sponsored by another employer who follows the same process, or depart from the United States. A foreign specialty worker’s status on an H-1B visa can be extended for a maximum period of 6 aggregate years. Such workers can also stay longer than the H-1B visa allows by getting an employment-based green card.