Each fiscal year, the US issues 65,000 H-1B visas to employ foreign-born workers in graduate level 'specialty occupations' in the US. A further 20,000 H-1Bs are reserved for foreign nationals who have a higher degree (such as a master's) from a US university. The employer must file visa petitions with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Demand for these visas far outstrips supply. Each year, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accepts applications from April 1st onwards, six months before the beginning of the fiscal year which begins on October 1st. Last year, the fiscal year cap was reached on 11th June, after only two months. Certain employers are exempted from the H-1B cap; for example US universities and certain not-for-profit organisations.
Apply soonThis year, as the economy continues to recover, the quota is expected to run out even faster so if you are a US employer who wants to employ a foreign worker on an H-1B visa, you should apply soon.
In order to qualify for an H-1B visa, an overseas worker will normally be required to have a bachelor's degree or equivalent. If you do not have a bachelor's degree or higher a mixture of training, experience and/or non-degree level qualifications may suffice; this is known as 'degree equivalence'.
Before employing a foreign worker on an H-1B visa, a US employer must inform its staff that it intends to hire an H-1B worker. If a US employer is successful in its petition for an H-1B, the employee will be able to start work at the start of the fiscal year for which the visa is granted so, if you apply in April 2013 and are successful, you will be able to start work from October 2013.
An H-1B visa usually lasts for an initial period of three years which can be extended for up to six years. The employer needs to pay the usual salary rate for the job.
US business has been calling for a reform of the H-1B regime for some time. Last year, Microsoft proposed that US businesses should be able to buy H-1Bs for $10,000. In January, four senators, two Republicans and two Democrats, sponsored a proposed law, the Immigration Innovation Act which would see the H-1B cap raised from 65,000 to 115,000 annually immediately. In addition, all those with masters' degrees would be excluded from the cap. The bill would allow the number of H-1Bs granted annually to rise to 300,000 during economic boom times.
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