What is Form I-129?
Form I-129, officially known as the “Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker,” is a form used by employers in the United States to petition for the temporary employment of foreign nationals in various nonimmigrant visa categories.
Nonimmigrant visas are visas that are issued for temporary stays in the U.S. for specific purposes, such as work, study, tourism, or medical treatment, among others.
Form I-129 is submitted to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by employers who want to bring foreign workers to the U.S. for employment purposes.
This form is used to request permission for specific nonimmigrant visa categories, such as H-1B (specialty occupations), L-1 (intracompany transferees), O-1 (individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement), and more.
The form requires detailed information about the employer, the foreign worker, the proposed job position, and other relevant details.
Employers are responsible for demonstrating that the proposed employment meets the requirements of the chosen visa category and that the foreign worker is eligible for the requested status.
It’s important to note that each nonimmigrant visa category has its own set of eligibility criteria and requirements, so the information and documentation needed for the I-129 form will vary depending on the specific visa category being applied for.
Once the I-129 petition is approved by USCIS, the foreign worker can then use the approved petition to apply for the corresponding nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country.
If the visa is granted, the foreign worker can enter the U.S. and begin their authorized employment.
Is Form I-129 the same as an H-1B visa?
Form I-129 and the H-1B visa are related but distinct concepts in the context of U.S. immigration. Let’s clarify the difference between the two:
Form I-129: This is a petition form, officially titled “Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.” It is submitted by U.S. employers who want to hire foreign workers in various nonimmigrant visa categories, including the H-1B visa category. Form I-129 is used to request permission from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to employ a foreign worker for a specific job position in the U.S. Each visa category has its own set of requirements, and Form I-129 is customized to provide the necessary information for the chosen category.
H-1B Visa: The H-1B visa is a specific nonimmigrant visa category that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in “specialty occupations.” These occupations generally require a higher level of education and specialized knowledge. The H-1B visa is commonly used for professionals in fields such as technology, engineering, science, and other specialized areas. To obtain an H-1B visa, the employer must file a Form I-129 petition specifically for the H-1B category and demonstrate that the job position and the foreign worker meet the criteria for H-1B classification.
In summary, Form I-129 is the petition form used by employers to request permission to hire a foreign worker in various nonimmigrant visa categories, including H-1B.
The H-1B visa is one specific visa category that falls under the umbrella of Form I-129 petitions.
The distinction is important because there are various other visa categories that can also be requested using Form I-129, each with its own eligibility criteria and requirements.
Does Form I-129 lead to a green card?
Form I-129 itself does not directly lead to a green card (permanent resident status) in the United States.
Form I-129 is used to petition for temporary nonimmigrant work visas, allowing foreign workers to work in the U.S. for a specific period of time.
Some of the visa categories requested using Form I-129 may offer pathways to a green card, but the process typically involves additional steps and forms.
For example, the H-1B visa, which is commonly requested using Form I-129, can potentially lead to a green card through employer-sponsored immigration processes.
If an H-1B visa holder and their employer decide to pursue permanent residency (green card) in the U.S., they would need to go through a separate process, such as the employment-based green card process (EB-2 or EB-3 categories).
This process involves filing a new set of forms and meeting specific criteria, including labor certification, filing an immigrant petition (such as Form I-140), and going through the adjustment of status or consular processing to receive the green card.
How to file Form I-129
Filing Form I-129 involves a series of steps to ensure that you provide accurate and complete information for the specific nonimmigrant visa category you are applying for.
Keep in mind that the process and requirements may vary depending on the visa category. Here’s a general overview of how to file Form I-129:
Choose the Correct Visa Category: Determine the appropriate nonimmigrant visa category for the foreign worker you intend to petition for. Different categories have different eligibility criteria and requirements. Common categories include H-1B, L-1, O-1, and more.
Gather Required Documentation: Collect all the necessary documents to support your petition. These may include:
- Job offer letter or employment contract.
- Detailed job description and job duties.
- Proof of the foreign worker’s qualifications, education, and experience.
- Any required licenses or certifications.
- Supporting documents specific to the chosen visa category (e.g., advisory opinions, itinerary, etc.).
- Employer’s financial information to demonstrate ability to pay the offered wage.
- Any other relevant documents as required by the specific visa category.
Complete Form I-129: Download and fill out Form I-129 from the official USCIS website. Ensure that you accurately provide all required information, as incorrect or incomplete forms may lead to delays or denials.
Pay the Filing Fee: Check the USCIS website for the current filing fee for Form I-129 in your chosen visa category. Include the appropriate payment method (check or money order) with your application.
Submit Form I-129: Mail the completed Form I-129, along with all required supporting documents and the filing fee, to the address provided in the form instructions. Make sure to keep a copy of the entire package for your records.
Receive Notice of Action (Form I-797): After USCIS receives your petition, they will send you a Notice of Action (Form I-797) to acknowledge the receipt. This notice will include a receipt number that you can use to track the status of your petition.
Respond to Requests for Additional Information: USCIS may request additional information or documentation if they need further clarification about your petition (Request for Evidence, or RFE). Be sure to respond promptly and provide the requested information.
Wait for USCIS Decision: USCIS will review your petition and make a decision. If approved, you will receive an approval notice. If denied, the notice will explain the reasons for the denial.
Visa Application (If Applicable): If the petition is approved and the foreign worker is outside the U.S., they can then apply for the appropriate nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy.
Form I-129 filing fee
The current basic filing fee for Form I-129 is $460. The exact filing fee varies depending on the specific nonimmigrant visa category you are applying for.
Below we can provide you with some general information about the filing fees for a few common nonimmigrant visa categories.
However, please keep in mind that fees can change over time, so we recommend checking the official USCIS website to get the accurate and up-to-date Form I-129 filing fee information.
Here are the filing fees for a few common nonimmigrant visa categories using Form I-129:
- H-1B: The filing fee for Form I-129 in the H-1B category is typically composed of several components, including the base filing fee and various additional fees (ACWIA fee of $750-$1,500, Fraud Prevention and Detection fee of $500, Public Law 114-113 fee of $4,000). The total fees can vary depending on the size of the employer and whether the petition is subject to the H-1B cap.
- L-1A and L-1B: The filing fee for Form I-129 in the L-1A and L-1B categories also includes the base filing fee and the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee of $500.
- O-1: The filing fee for Form I-129 in the O-1 category includes the base filing fee and the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee.
- TN (Trade NAFTA): The filing fee for Form I-129 in the TN category (for citizens of Canada and Mexico) includes the base filing fee and the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee.
- E-3 (Australian Specialty Occupation): The filing fee for Form I-129 in the E-3 category includes the base filing fee and the Fraud Prevention and Detection fee.
Please note that these are just examples of common nonimmigrant visa categories, and there are many other categories with different fees and requirements.
Additionally, USCIS periodically adjusts its fees, so it’s crucial to check the most current fee information on the official USCIS Form I-129 filing fees page before submitting your application.
Form I-129 checklist
Below you can find a general Form I-129 checklist that can be used as a starting point for assembling the application package.
However, keep in mind that requirements can vary based on the visa category, so it’s important to review the specific instructions and requirements for the category you are applying for on the official USCIS website.
Form I-129 Checklist:
- Name and contact information of the employer or petitioner.
- Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) or Social Security Number (SSN) of the employer.
- Full name, date of birth, and passport information of the foreign worker (beneficiary).
- Current U.S. address (if applicable).
- Country of citizenship and nationality.
Job Offer and Position Information:
- Job title and description.
- Details about the offered position, including job duties and responsibilities.
- Expected start and end dates of employment.
Qualifications and Education:
- Documentation proving the foreign worker’s qualifications, education, and experience.
- Copies of degrees, transcripts, and relevant certificates.
- Any licenses or certifications required for the position.
Supporting Documentation (Varies by Visa Category):
- Additional documents specific to the chosen visa category (e.g., advisory opinions, itinerary, etc.).
Prevailing Wage Determination:
- Copy of the prevailing wage determination obtained from the Department of Labor (if required).
Labor Condition Application (LCA) for H-1B (if applicable):
- Copy of the certified LCA from the Department of Labor.
Filing Fee Payment:
- Check or money order for the appropriate filing fee. Check the USCIS website for the current fee amount.
Cover Letter (Optional):
- A cover letter explaining the purpose of the petition, providing a brief overview of the job and beneficiary’s qualifications, and listing the enclosed documents.
G-28 Form (Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative):
- If you’re represented by an attorney or accredited representative, include Form G-28.
Form G-28 (Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney or Accredited Representative):
- If applicable, include Form G-28 if you’re represented by an attorney or accredited representative.
USCIS Filing Location:
- Make sure you are sending your Form I-129 petition to the correct USCIS filing location. Check the I-129 filing addresses on the USCIS website.
Please note that this checklist is a general guide, and you should tailor it to the specific requirements of the visa category you are applying for.
Always verify the most up-to-date instructions and requirements on the official USCIS website before preparing and submitting your Form I-129 petition.
If you have any doubts or questions, consider seeking assistance from an immigration attorney or a qualified legal professional.
Form I-129 processing time
The processing time for Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, can vary significantly based on several factors, including:
- The specific nonimmigrant visa category
- The USCIS service center that processing your petition
- Current caseloads, and
- Any additional administrative requirements or security clearances.
The average Form I-129 USCIS processing times are provided below:
- Blanket L: 2 months
- E (Treaty traders and investors): 2.5 months
- E3 (Specialty occupation workers from Australia): 2 months
- H-1B (Specialty occupation, visa to be issued abroad): 2 months -2.5 months
- H-1B (Specialty occupation, change of status in the U.S.): 2 months -2.5 months
- H-1B (Specialty occupation, extension of stay in the U.S.): 2 months -2.5 months
- H-2A (Temporary agricultural workers): 15 days
- H-2B (Temporary nonagricultural workers): 1 week-5 weeks
- H-3 (Temporary trainees): 2 months -2.5 months
- L (Intracompany transferees): 1.5 months -2 months
- O (Extraordinary ability): 1.5 months
- P (Athletes, artists and entertainers): 5 weeks – 2.5 months
- Q (Cultural exchange visitors): 2.5 months
- R (Religious occupation): 2.5 months
- TN (U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement): 2 months
To get the most accurate and up-to-date processing time information for Form I-129, you should visit the official USCIS website.
USCIS provides estimated processing times for each service center and visa category on their website. Here’s how you can find this information:
- Visit the USCIS Website: Go to the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov.
- Check Processing Times: Navigate to the “Check Processing Times” page, which is usually found under the “Tools” or “Forms” section.
- Select Form I-129: Look for the specific form and visa category you are interested in. In this case, you would select “Form I-129 – Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.”
- Choose Service Center: Select the USCIS service center that is processing your petition. This might be based on your location or other factors.
- View Estimated Processing Time: The USCIS website will display the estimated processing time for Form I-129 petitions in that specific category and service center.
Please note that processing times are subject to change.
Additionally, USCIS might offer different processing options for certain visa categories, such as premium processing, which allows for faster processing in exchange for an additional fee.
Keep in mind that processing times can vary, and actual processing times may be longer or shorter than the estimates provided on the USCIS website.
It’s a good idea to regularly check the USCIS website for updates and monitor the status of your petition using the receipt number provided in your Notice of Action (Form I-797).
If your case is significantly delayed or you have concerns about the processing time, you might consider contacting USCIS.
What happens after Form I-129 is approved?
After Form I-129 is approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the next steps depend on the specific nonimmigrant visa category for which you filed the petition.
Here are the general steps that typically follow the approval of Form I-129:
Receipt of Approval Notice (Form I-797): Once your Form I-129 is approved, you will receive an Approval Notice (Form I-797) from USCIS. This notice confirms the approval of your petition and includes important information, such as the validity period of the approved petition and any conditions or limitations.
Nonimmigrant Visa Application (If Required):
- If the beneficiary (the foreign worker) is outside the U.S. and plans to come to the U.S. to work, they may need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy in their home country. The approved Form I-129 petition is typically needed as part of the visa application process.
- The beneficiary will need to follow the specific visa application procedures for the chosen visa category. This might include completing a visa application form, paying the visa application fee, attending an interview, and providing supporting documentation.
Port of Entry (POE) Processing:
- If the beneficiary is approved for a nonimmigrant visa and arrives in the U.S., they will need to go through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection process at the port of entry (airport, seaport, or land border). The CBP officer will make the final determination regarding their admission to the U.S.
Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record: Upon entry, the CBP officer will issue an electronic Form I-94, which is the record of the foreign worker’s authorized stay in the U.S. It will specify the visa category, the duration of authorized stay, and other relevant details.
Employment Start Date and Compliance:
- The foreign worker can begin working for the employer on or after the start date indicated on the approved Form I-129.
- Both the employer and the foreign worker must ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of the approved petition, including the job position, location, wage, and any other requirements specific to the chosen visa category.
Change of Employer or Extension:
- If there are changes in employment, such as changing employers or extending the stay, a new Form I-129 petition might be required. Some visa categories allow for transfers or extensions of employment, but these processes should be carefully managed to maintain lawful status.
It’s important to note that the steps after Form I-129 approval can vary based on the specific visa category and the individual circumstances.
Always refer to the specific instructions and guidelines provided by USCIS for the chosen visa category, and consider consulting with an immigration attorney if you have any questions or concerns about the process.