The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa sponsored by a US company for a foreign worker they intend to employ in "specialty occupations" which requires theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields like scientists, engineers, or computer programmers. H-1B work visas are important because they are typically the best way for a company to hire skilled foreign nationals. The H-1B visa is initially granted for up to three years, but may be extended to a maximum of six years.
In order to qualify as a specialty occupation the job must require at a minimum a college degree or higher degree or its equivalent from an accredited United States college or university. As such, the employee applicant must have at least a U.S. Bachelor's degree or its foreign equivalent related to that specialty. If the employee has no degree they must demonstrate they have education, training or experience in the specialty that is equivalent to the degree, and achieved recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty.
The company must also first obtain Department of Labor certification that they are paying the prevailing wage, comply with posting requirements and maintain a file as to the employment which is subject to inspection by the Department of Labor.
H-1B visas are limited each year to only 65,000 new visas for specialty occupation positions, and 20,000 visas for those with an advanced education degree. Employers can first begin filing H-1B applications on April 2 but the employees cannot start work until October 1. USCIS received a sufficient number of petitions to reach the statutory cap for the fiscal year 2013 on June 11, 2012.
H-1B visa holder’s immediate family also gets visas. While the family members' are not eligible to work, they may attend school, obtain a driver's license and open a bank account. Another major advantage for H-1B visa holders is that they can apply for a United States Green Card while working in the US in the H-1B visa employment.
My office works with businesses of all sizes in navigating the H-1B visa process. Employers should be ready as H-1B season will be here before you know it.
Please note that nothing contained herein shall constitute legal advice or shall be deemed to create an attorney-client relationship.