As a non-citizen, if you are coming to the United States for school, work, vacation or just to reconnect with family and old friends, you might need a visa. This, of course, all depends on the nature of your visit, country of origin and many other factors. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) makes provisions for various types of visas to cater to different needs. The H1-B Visa allows you to live, work, travel in and out of the United States and can even be used to apply for a green card. Unlike some other non-immigrant visas that restrict work and travel. Here are some of the most important things you should know about it if you are considering applying for one.

 

What is a H1-B visa?

h1b visa stamp in passport

The H1-B visa is a temporary, non-immigrant visa granted to graduate employees in specialized fields like IT, Finance, Medicine, Engineering, etc. Since these jobs usually require a graduate degree, possessing one is an important requirement to be granted this visa.

 

Who is eligible?

The most important qualification you need for the H1-B visa is the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited educational institution. If you don’t have a degree but are able to demonstrate extensive knowledge of whatever occupation you specialize in, you might be granted a concession. Currently, to qualify for the visa your prospective job must also pay a minimum of $60,000 per year or more.
 
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Specialized fields may include (but are certainly not limited to) Medicine, Accounting, IT, Law Journalism, Engineering and similar professional courses.  You also qualify if you have a foreign degree that would be equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree or higher in your field. Interestingly, your degree must have taken a minimum of four years. If you’ve completed more than one degree you may be allowed to combine them in your application. You may also be allowed to combine a few years spent obtaining a degree with a few years of relevant work experience.

 

How long is it valid for?

From the point of the first issuance, the H1-B visa is valid for an initial period of three years. Close to the expiration date, the visa can be extended for another 3 years. Therefore, the visa can be valid for a total of 6 years.

 

Can you apply yourself?

Not exactly. While you can’t apply by yourself, your current employer or prospective employer should make the application on your behalf. This application must be submitted from the 1st of April in the previous financial year for it to be eligible in the next financial year. For example, if you want to apply for a H1-B visa that will be needed in 2019, your employer should have put in your visa application from the 2nd of April 2018. Employers must also get Labor Condition Application (LCA) approval from the Department of Labor.

 

How much does it cost?

The filing fee for the H1-B petition is paid by the employer, otherwise called the H1-B Sponsor. The fee ranges from $1570 to $2320. For employers with up to 25 full-time employees, the application fee is $1570. For employers with 26 or more full-time employees, the application fee is $2320. In both scenarios, there’s also the option to pay an additional $1,225 as a premium processing fee.

 

How many H1-B visas can be given out in a year?

h1b visa someone stamping a passport

The Immigration Act of 1990 decrees that a limit of 85,000 visas are to be given out per financial year. Most of the visas (65,000) are expected to be given to foreigners working at a professional level with a Bachelor’s degree. The remaining 20,000 visas are for professional workers with an advanced degree. For these individuals, the degree must have been obtained from an educational institution in the United States.

 

Is it strictly a work visa?

No, it’s not. It is a multiple entry visa, which allows a person to travel in and out of the United States any number of times, within the specified visa validity period. The spouse and unmarried children of H1-B professionals are also allowed to stay in the United States for the same duration under a dependent category called the H4 visa.

If you are currently living and working in the US on a H1-B visa and intend to stay for more than the allotted 6 years, you can apply for a green card. If you don’t get your green card before your visa expires, you must live outside of the United States for at least a year before applying for another H1-B visa. Fortunately, changing jobs is not an issue. The H1-B visa can be transferred to a new employer. In some rare instances, visa holders are permitted to work for more than one U.S. employer at the same time. For this, a Form I-129 petition needs to be approved by each employer.

 

How long does it take?

Once your application has been filed, the selection process can take anywhere between four to six months. Within the first five days of April, the first 65,000 slots are usually filled. Once this cap is filled then the 20,000 slots reserved for higher education are then filled.

Once you’ve been granted your visa, getting settled as a working resident in the United States becomes a top priority. Ease that stress by using Blueground to find the ideal apartment. Their extensive selection of fully-furnished, equipped and serviced apartments are always in the most sought after locations. From New York to Los Angeles, you can rent high-quality apartments with just a few clicks. When renting with Blueground, all you need to do is show up and start living, everything else has been taken care of.

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