H-1B Specialty Worker Visas

The H-1B is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals who will be employed temporarily in a specialty occupation.

What is a specialty occupation?

A specialty occupation requires theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge along with at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. For example, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, and theology are specialty occupations.

Who may petition?

H-1B visas are employer-specific, and individuals may only work (full-time or part-time) for the petitioning US employer and only in the H-1B activities described in the petition. However, an H-1B visa holder may transfer employers with USCIS authorization.

Requirements

The following conditions must be met for an applicant to receive an H-1B visa:

  • The applicant’s intended job must be a professional position that requires, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in the field of specialization;
  • A US sponsor is required to petition for an H-1B worker. The sponsor must comply with prevailing wage levels and agree not to displace American workers;
  • The visa applicant’s employer must also file a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor that outlines the employer’s responsibilities, including wages, working conditions, and benefits to be provided to the nonimmigrant.

Other important information

Even though the H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa, it is one of the few visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning that an H-1B holder can have immigrant intent. The H-1B holder’s spouse and minor children are entitled to H-4.

The H-1B is valid for the period of employment indicated on the Labor Condition Application. A foreign worker can be in H-1B status for a maximum continuous period of six years. After the H-1B expires, the foreign worker must remain outside the US for one year before another H-1B petition can be approved. Current laws annually limit the number of foreign workers who may be issued a visa or otherwise be provided H-1B status to 65,000 and 20,000 for those holding masters’ or higher degrees from a US university. Because demand for the H-1B visa usually exceeds supply, USCIS limits the submission period (usually during the first week of April) and conducts an annual lottery to select eligible petitions for H-1B processing.

What are some problems, issues, and USCIS/Consular questions which arise when submitting an H-1B Petition and Visa Application?

White and Associates has more than twenty years of experience in preparing H-1B petitions and representing H-1B applicants at US consulates abroad. Below we list some of the H-1B problem issues we have seen:

  • Certain jobs which one commonly believes to be specialty occupations are not considered so by USCIS (real world vs. “immigration” world);
  • Small petitioners may not have a “business necessity” for the job (e.g., accountant for a small company);
  • Beneficiary is the owner or one of the owners of the US petitioning company;
  • Barebones petition with limited information about the beneficiary, the employer, and the job the beneficiary will be doing;
  • Boilerplate petitions which incorporate standard job descriptions rather than detailed, tailored descriptions;
  • Graduation from some foreign universities is not considered the equivalent of a US university degree;
  • When using experience as a substitute for education, evidencing the experience insufficiently;
  • Beneficiary does not speak English well (even if the job does not require fluent English);
  • Beneficiary is related to or has a romantic relationship with one of the principals of the filing petitioner;
  • Weak financial condition of petitioner (can the employer pay the proposed salary?);
  • Small office premises of petitioner;
  • No job interview with the employer;
  • Beneficiary changed his status in the US from B to H on his first visit after receiving a visa (e.g., told consul he was going to Disneyworld, and one week after arrival, he was offered job);
  • Applicants with previously refused B or F visas;
  • Discovery of “new, material” information by the consular officer.

How does White and Associates help?

Because H-1B petitions involve the interaction of at least four government agencies (DOL, USCIS, DOS, CBP), it is imperative to have competent representation. The annual quotas mean that a job offer must be arranged in a timely fashion and the petition submitted within a very narrow window. Because the job cannot start before October 1, graduating students face hurdles in maintaining status until the commencement of the employment. If any of the above-listed factors applies to your situation, the need for representation is even more acute. It is important to understand that just because USCIS approved the petition does not mean you will receive the visa. In fact, you can lose more than 6 months if your petition is referred for revocation.

Our H-1B services are multifaceted: we can prepare the petition in a timely fashion; strategize with the employer; and represent the employee at the consulate. We can bring to bear our experience in resolving difficult issues or situations. We can provide a second opinion if counsel has already been retained. If your petition has been referred back for revocation or is in the process of being referred back, we can assist in forestalling that referral, or respond to a Notice of Intent to Revoke. If your petition has been denied, we can represent you in the appeals process, or seek out other alternatives for the employee. We can represent the employee in resolving personal, immigration-related issues. Because the stakes are so high — a petition denial can irrevocably harm a project; a consular recommendation for revocation of a USCIS approval can delay the arrival of an employee for 6 months or more — contact us to find out more about how we can help you.