What is an H1-B Visa?

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For those interested in studying patterns of non-resident immigration regarding employment statistics or international individuals seeking employment prospects within the United States, familiarity with the H1-B Visa (H-1B) is crucial. The article below will explore this particular type of national permit to enhance understanding.

Basic Facts and Features

The H1-B visa program allows companies based in the United States to employ foreign nationals for specific purposes that require a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education. Established in 1990 under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(17)(H), it allows individuals from other countries to work for a predetermined company for three years. Upon additional application, this term may extend to six years.

In the interest of maintaining control of non-resident immigration into the domestic job market, the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) enforce a cap of 65,000 visas per year. However, there are exemptions to this cap. In addition to the stated number, 20,000 H-1B visas are available for those with a master’s, Ph.D. or another post-doctoral degree from a U.S. university. As well, schools within the United States are permitted to employ an unlimited number of foreign nationals who otherwise qualify for the visa. These people are listed as cap-exempt and are often engaged to work in close relation to universities via research or development applications.

A Different Sort of Lottery

Because the introduction of foreign nationals into the economy of the United States does bear some impact, each year visas are granted via a lottery. USCIS begins accepting applications on the first weekday of April and requires that individuals apply no more than six months in advance of the respective start of employment with a domestic business or university.

Trade relations with other nations also impact the distribution of visas among the eligible. For example, agreements between the U.S. and Chile or Singapore stipulate that a certain percentage of allotted visas go to nationals from these countries. When the USCIS receives sufficient applications, it publishes a memorandum indicating that the window to submit materials for consideration is closed. Applicants are encouraged to indicate the particular status of the H-1B visa for which they are applying—Regular Cap, C/S Cap, or US Masters.

Extended Stay Exemption and Application

Individuals who fall into the traditional H-1B visa group can apply for extensions by re-submitting applications with documentation from their employer. Generally speaking, these workers are also in the process of securing more permanent resident status through the Green Card program in what is known as an I-140 Immigrant Petition. The program states that if they submit this documentation before their fifth year in the United States, they will be entitled to renew their resident alien status on a yearly basis until the process is complete.

If a person working in the US with H-1B status terminates their employment with the approved company, they must leave the country within a specific time frame. However, even caveats exist for this stipulation. Individuals who petition to resume their stay within the US under the auspices of another approved employer may be granted continuation of their visa period. Additionally, if green card procedures are in progress when the permit period ends, they can apply for permission to remain.

While there are many types of visas designed to regulate the influx of individuals from other countries, this specific type functions as a form of international public relations. It permits foreign nationals to enrich US companies with their skill sets and reap benefits for a specified period. However, the H1-B program also offers a political bargaining chip, allowing the United States to grant a specific percentage of non-resident immigration for favored trading partners or alliance members.