The following are common questions that hopeful foreign workers may have about the H1B visa program and getting a position in the US. For a complete overview of the H1B visa process, please take a look at our guide to applying for this non-immigrant work visa.
What is the last day to submit a petition for the 2017 lottery season?
The USCIS will start accepting petitions for fiscal year 2018 on April 1, 2017. You can submit them before that, but it does not give you any priority.
However, the lottery usually takes place that same week for all submitted petitions, so the absolute latest you could file to have an approved petition entered into the lottery is early to mid-March, using expedited premium processing.
Who will decide if I qualify for an H1B visa? Does my sponsor have any influence?
The USCIS will determine if you meet the H1b visa criteria for ‘specialty occupations’. These are used to make sure that you are filling a professional position of value to the US business economy. Your sponsor cannot influence the USCIS approval, but they will offer you a position that fits your degree and qualifications.
Will the new Trump administration affect H1B visa rules this year, or change qualifications?
Even if the new president and Congress make changes to the H1B program, they are most likely to go into effect for fiscal year 2019. Too many US businesses are relying on current rules to make abrupt changes that could bring unexpected expense or require changes in employment strategies.
How many H1B visas will be available this year for my occupation?
H1B visas are not allocated by specific occupations, and the total for all specialties is 65,000 for those with Bachelor’s degrees and another 20,000 for Master’s degree holders. These numbers are known as the ‘annual cap’ and if there are too many petitions, a lottery system is used to award H1B visas. Last year there were over 240,000 petitions for those slots, and that number should increase this visa season.
What H1B visa fees do I have to pay? Does my sponsor pay for all of it?
The foreign worker, as beneficiary of the sponsor’s petition is not required to pay any fees. The exception is if you need to use premium processing ($1200), or pay an attorney to assist you (price varies), then you may have to pay those yourself. You can clarify this with your sponsor when interviewing.
If I don’t have position or sponsor yet, what is the first step and who can help me?
The best thing you can do is to review our database of frequent H1B visa sponsors here on H1B.io. Once you find a few that fit your profession, you can begin applying for positions. Please contact us if you have questions about how to contact sponsors and apply for a position.
What is the difference between a job subject to the annual cap and a cap exempt position? Are the qualifications different?
H1B visa jobs subject to the annual cap are typically corporate positions in any for profit industry (with the majority of petitions in the IT sector). Cap exempt jobs (which are not included in the annual lottery) are in the non-profit sector (universities, hospitals, et. al.) or government institutions.
The qualifications are the same, assuming it is a similar position and your degree and experience match the specialty occupation.
How long does it take for my petition to be approved?
The time varies, but it can take up to several months which is why it is important to start early. If you are pressed for time, premium processing is available which shortens the approval process to 14 days, assuming there are no missing documents or incomplete information.
If I don’t get selected in the lottery, can I use the same petition next year?
If your petition is not selected in the lottery, then the fees will be returned to your sponsor and you will have to try again next year. Even if your information, sponsor and position are all the same, a new petition must be filed with the required fees.
Is it better to be in the US while looking for a sponsor, or during the approval process and lottery?
Many H1B visa applicants complete the entire process from their home country, and there is no advantage to being in the US. Some people might find the job search easier inside the US, but unless you have a tourist visa or other permission to stay, you will have to do it from home.
What if I am student graduating with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, but don’t have job experience? Can I still apply for an H1B visa?
Students on F-1 visas have several options to remain in the US post-graduation and begin working. The OPT training program is a bridge to the H1B visa, and can also give a student valuable work experience. These options are likely to remain unchanged or even be expanded to allow foreign students to find jobs in the US right away.
If I obtain an H1B visa can my family come and live with me in the US?
If your petition is approved and you are given an H1B visa, your spouse and dependent children can accompany you and live in the US. In many cases, spouses can also work using the H-4 visa, which is an added financial benefit for the family.
How do I become a permanent resident if I am working with an H1B visa?
If your goal is permanent residency, then it is permitted to begin the green card process based on employment while working with an H1B visa. It does take time however, so it is best to start that process early on.
Basically, your sponsor/employer will assist you with the documentation for a green card, and if you are a valuable employee they may be motivated to assist.
Can I really make more money working in the US than my home country, after paying higher living expenses?
This depends on your salary, location, lifestyle and spending habits. You can make a higher salary in the US, and if you save by sharing accommodation or transportation costs with friends or associates, you should have the ability to save more money than at home.
At the very least, you will make enough money to enjoy living and working in a new culture with all the US has to offer, along with gaining valuable work experience.
When does the H1B visa expire? Can I renew it or do I have to apply again?
Your initial H1B visa has a three-year validity. After that, you can be granted a three-year extension, but there is no true ‘renewal’ of the visa. Additional extensions may be available in special circumstances, but unless you have obtained a green card, you have to leave the US after a maximum of six years, and cannot apply for a new work visa for at least one year.
- January 22nd, 2017