What is an H-1B Visa?

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The non-immigrant US H-1B Visa is what allows foreign employees to be hired in positions that are categorized as specialty occupations. A specialty occupation is one that is deeply rooted in fields such as medicine, science, mathematics, engineering, architecture, finance and IT.

Generally speaking, any kind of occupation that would require the employee to have a Bachelors degree is one that would fall under the H-1B Visa’s classification of specialty occupation. Once the visa has been appointed, it will be valid for up to about six years.

The Petitioning Process and the Length of Maintenance

Petitioning for a H-1B Visa will be done by the employer themselves. Because the application process is usually a fair bit swifter than the application process for a Green Card, it is usually the more highly-favored method for getting foreign employees on board. The high demand for visas oftentimes results in employers exploring the opportunities for alternative forms, such as the E-2 Treaty Investor visa and the L-1A.

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Determining Eligibility

Typically, the visa may only be appointed to those who hold a Bachelor’s degree, or another degree that is either equivalent or higher. In most cases, the specialty occupation’s degree requirement is an industry standard; however, it may also be the case that the job itself is complex enough to mandate the skills of no one less than a degree holder.

Exceptions for Those Who Lack a Bachelors

In the event that a foreign worker doesn’t possess a Bachelors degree, it is still possible for an exception to be made. Workers who are able to present evidence of an equivalent degree may be considered just as qualified for the occupation as those who have a Bachelors; however, in most circumstances, possession of the Bachelors will provide the best possible chance for a foreign worker to be considered eligible for their target occupation.

Annual Visa Cap

Every visa will have a cap applied to it at the end of each financial year. Employers are provided up to half a calendar year before the starting date of the visa to apply for it, but the foreign workers themselves won’t be permitted to begin work until the the six months have fully elapsed.

Typically, there will be a heavy flow of applications at the start of April. Once the visa has been heavily subscribed to a certain degree, there will be USCIS-held lottery in order to determine who will receive the remaining visas. Approximately 20,000 visas are open to foreign specialty workers who possesses US degrees from advanced programs.

In addition to the 20,000 visas made available to advanced US degree holders, there are also 65,000 visas made available to specialty workers with bachelors degrees who are stationed on an overseas basis. Altogether, number of visas made available during the fiscal year in accordance to immigration law is about 85,000.


The visa provides a method for employers to take on reliable foreign workers who hold the right credentials for the position but still need to cut through red tape to be eligible. The visa is consistently in high demand, and so its appointment oftentimes becomes both a matter of promptness of the employer’s part and also a bit of luck in the event that petitioning isn’t done early enough.