The H1-B visa is a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa category issued by the United States government. The H1-B visa allows employers to petition for highly educated foreign professionals to work in “specialty occupations” that require at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent, such as fields such as mathematics, engineering, technology, and medical sciences. The foreign citizen must be sponsored by their employer in order to stay in the United States under an H1-B visa, and if their employment status changes, the visa may no longer be valid unless it is transferred to a new qualifying employer. Before an employer can file a petition with USCIS, the employer must take steps to ensure that hiring the foreign worker will not harm U.S. workers. Employers first must attest, on a labor condition application (LCA) certified by the Department of Labor (DOL), that employment of the H-1B worker will not adversely impact the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. Employers must also provide existing workers with notice of their intention to hire an H-1B worker.
The initial duration of an H-1B visa classification is three years, which can be extended for a maximum of six years. Congress has capped the number of H-1B visas issued each year, currently set at 65,000 with an additional 20,000 for those holding a master's degree or doctorate from a U.S. institution. Due to high demand, a lottery system is used to determine which applicants will receive the visas.
Prior to 2020, employers were required to submit full H-1B petitions without knowing if a visa number would be available. In 2020, USCIS implemented a registration process to reduce burden on employers and the agency. Employers must register electronically for each foreign national they intend to file a petition for and pay a $10 fee for each registration. If the number of registrations exceeds the number of visas available, a lottery will be conducted to determine which petitions will be processed.
For more information about nonimmigrant visas, please see the United States department of state website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/all-visa-categories.html.
See also: Bureau of Consular Affairs
[Last updated in January of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]