H-1B Visa

H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ professional graduate level workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, etc. Any professional level job that usually requires you to have a bachelor’s degree or higher falls under the H-1B visa for specialty occupations. If you do not have a bachelor’s degree you may be able to show degree equivalence through work experience

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What are the Qualifications for an H-1B Visa?

You must meet certain educational and work-related requirements in order to qualify for an H-1B visa . These include the following:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree or higher, or the equivalent in education and experience
  • The job must require an advanced degree and/or experience for the position
  • You must work in a specialty occupation
  • You must be sponsored by an employer
  • Your job must meet specific wage requirements
  • There must be an available H-1B visa number

What are the Specialty Occupations Needed for an H-1B?

A specialty occupation is one that requires application of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor. You see many examples of specialty occupations including:

  • Computer scientists, programmers, data management workers, and system administrators
  • Mechanical, electrical, electronics, industrial, civil, and computer engineers
  • Doctors, surgeons, and other health or medical field workers
  • Architects and surveyors
  • Social scientists and biologists
  • Artists and writers
  • Economists, accountants, and auditors
  • Therapists
  • Professors and teachers
  • Lawyers and other workers in the legal field
  • Administrators and managers of various types

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What are the Requirements for Someone Without a Bachelor’s Degree?

If you do not hold a Bachelor’s degree, you could still apply for an H-1B visa if you have either of the following:

  • A professional unrestricted license or certification in a field that allows you to work in your position. You must also be currently working in your field in order to qualify for an H-1B visa. If your employment ends, your H-1B status is also terminated and, consequently, you are no longer in status. The H-1B regulations don’t provide a grace period, but USCIS sometimes approves a change of status if filed within 30 days of termination.
  • An equivalent amount of training, work experience, or education equal to a U.S. bachelor’s degree or a higher degree. You must also have expertise in your field. Usually, three years of specialized training or employment will be considered equivalent to one year of college.

H-1B Visas for Those Who are Self-Employed

In general, you are not allowed to be self-employed and obtain an H-1B visa for that same company.  The H-1B visa requires that there is an independent company that has sole control to hire, pay, supervise, and terminate employees. However, if you own a company, you can provide evidence that others solely exercise control over your work, such as investors or a board of directors. Evidence of such could include a voting agreement, organizational documents, operating agreement, and offer letter. Factors that will be taken into account include duration of the relationship and whether the employer can assign you additional projects.

Common Problems with an H-1B Visa Petition

You have the burden of proof to show that you have the required specialized knowledge or qualifications and appropriate job to qualify for an H-1B visa. Many times, USCIS will respond to your petition with a Request for Evidence, requiring you to explain parts of your petition in more detail or provide additional documentation. These requests must be adequately responded to in a timely manner or your petition will be denied.

In addition, there is an annual quota on the number of H-1B visas approved. The current quota for the 2015 fiscal year is 65,000 per year, and an additional 20,000 visas are available for advanced degree holders with a master’s degree or higher. Applications for H-1B visas can be submitted up to six months prior to the start of the fiscal year, as early as April 1st.  Therefore, you should submit your H-1B visa application as soon as possible for the best chance at receiving a space.

If, while on an H-1B visa, you quit or are dismissed from your position with the sponsoring employer, you must obtain a change of status to another non-immigrant status, find another qualified employer, or leave the U.S. If you continue to reside in the U.S. without an approved visa status, you are subject to removal and the possibility of not being able to return to the U.S.

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