H-1B Visas

Entry to work in specialized occupations: the “H-1B” visa

Some U.S. employers have difficulty filling job openings for specialized occupations. This is especially true in high-tech fields and other industries where professional workers are in high demand. Employers have come to rely on foreign-born skilled workers to fill some of these jobs because qualified U.S. workers often are not readily available. The visa designed to deal with this problem is known as the “H-1B specialized occupation visa” – a temporary visa for professionals or persons in specialty occupations.

The visa is initially granted for three years, with the possible extension for up to another three years.

One advantage of this visa is that a person who qualifies will likely also qualify for permanent residency.

 

Occupations covered by H-1B visas

 

Some examples of jobs that may qualify are accountants, architects, chemists, computer analysts, computer programmers, engineers, physicians, attorneys, pharmacists, graphic designers, higher managerial personnel, and some specialized nurses.

Some workers without college degrees may obtain an H-1B visa because they have gained professional expertise through “degree equivalency”. The applicant will be required to present evidence through a knowledgeable expert that the experience is equivalent to education.

Occupations that usually do not qualify are paralegals, nurses’ aides and Licensed Practical Nurses, business managers, administrative assistants, bankers, pilots, and translators.

Whether your specific occupation qualifies is a highly technical question that can be addressed by an experienced immigration attorney.

Finding an employer to act as a sponsor

Many employers are familiar with the H-1B visa. The employer must certify that the prevailing wage will be paid and that other U.S. workers will not be adversely affected.

The best place to begin is by looking at standard job announcements in your particular field of specialty or talking with friends working in the field. The question of your immigration status will come up during the job search process, and you may want to have the name or names of local immigration lawyers whom the employer can consult for H-1B visa work, if the employer does not already have a regular immigration attorney.

Experienced immigration lawyers are often familiar with employers who regularly petition for H-1B workers.

May I switch from a student visa to an H-1B?

Yes, if you do it properly.

The H-1B visa program provides an excellent vehicle for foreign students to work in the United States for up to six years after they have graduated. The basic requirement for an H-1B is a bachelor’s degree in a specialty field – such as in business or the high tech industry. A person who studies and obtains a degree in a field where there is a need for workers is in effect laying the foundation for an H-1B position while in college. The practical training that a student can get after graduation helps build a trusting relationship with a potential H-1B employer.

It is wise to consult an experienced immigration attorney early on in this process, so you don’t make any mistakes and waste a lot of time.

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