Working in the U.S. with an H-1B Visa

Any immigrant who wants to work in the United States needs a visa to do so. A visa is simply a document that allows you to travel to the United States and seek entry into the country for a specific purpose. The work visa itself does not constitute authorization to enter into the country. An immigration officer at the point of entry will determine whether or not you may enter and for how long. The type of visa available to a person who wishes to enter the United States depends on the immigrant’s nationality, occupation, training and work experience.

The H-1B Visa: Visa for Employed College-Educated Professionals

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant (temporary) visa for a specialized professional who has been offered employment in the United States by a qualified employer. It is the employer that applies for the visa, not the prospective employee. The U.S. government grants 85,000 H-1B visas each year, 20,000 of which are set aside specifically for workers with masters level degrees from a U.S. educational institution.

H-1B visas are valid for three years and visa holders can apply for a one-time extension of another three years allowing for a total stay of six years. H-1B visas are duel-intent visas. Visa applicants will not be denied because they intend to apply for permanent residency (a green card) while holding the H-1B visa. H-1B visa holders can bring their family with them to the United States on an H-4 visa. A person holding an H-4 visa can not be a paid employee.

Rules for Employees Applying for H-1B Visas

Employees must be qualified in a specialty field, including: Computer science, health care, university teaching, engineering, chemistry, art, law, accounting, banking, financial analysis, management consulting, architecture, or scientific research.

H-1B visa applicants must meet requirements and provide documents proving their expertise in a field.

General requirements include (one of the following):

  • A bachelor's degree or higher degree or the foreign equivalent in the specialty field;
  • 12 years or more of work experience in specialty field;
  • A license to practice in the chosen occupation if such a license is required; or
  • A mix of further education and work experience to total at least 12 years.

Work experience requirements include:

  • Work experience must be in the same or a very similar field;
  • Work experience must be progressive in that the applicant must have taken on increasing responsibilities;
  • Work experience required practical and theoretical application of knowledge; and
  • Work experience was gained along side similarly educated employees.

Documentation to Be Provided by Employee

H-1B visa applicants will need to provide documentation proving either their work experience or education level. The following documents can be used:

  • High school diploma if no college degree has been obtained;
  • Associate, bachelor's, master's, or Ph.D college degree;
  • College transcripts or academic records;
  • Certificate or diploma of IT training courses;
  • Evidence of license or professional membership;
  • Resume describing in detail employment history, including:
    • Name of employer
    • Address of employer
    • Job title
    • Employment start date
    • Employment end date
    • Type of business
    • Duties performed
    • Full or part time
  • Employment verification or references matching resume.

Legal Representation / Immigration Attorneys

Legal representation can be extremely helpful for both the employer and employee when attempting to obtain a H-1B visa. An immigration attorney can review and file visa applications. This can help ensure that these documents are filled out correctly and that the documentation you provide is adequate to meet the standards of the U.S. immigration. An immigration lawyer can also advise you on what visas you can apply for and can help with your application for permanent resident status after you have received your visa and been in the country for a certain period of time.

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