This visa category is commonly used by U.S. employers to hire foreign professionals in fields such as information technology, engineering, mathematics, science, and other specialized fields where there may be a shortage of qualified American workers.
Applying for an H-1B visa is a multi-step process that involves both the employer and the foreign worker.
In H-1B visa applications, the U.S. employer is called “Petitioner” and the foreign employee is called “Beneficiary”.
Here is an overview of the general steps involved in applying for an H-1B visa:
Step 1. Determine if the position meets the “Specialty Occupation” definition. “Specialty Occupation” is a term used to describe the type of job or position that qualifies for H-1B visa sponsorship.
Step 2. Labor Condition Application (LCA): U.S. employer must file a labor condition application (LCA), Form ETA-9035E, electronically through the DOL’s Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG) system. The LCA must be certified by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
Step 3. H-1B visa lottery. U.S. employer completes the online registration process with USCIS and pay a $10 non-refundable fee. The H-1B registration period typically begins on March 1 each year. Check the latest H-1B registration updates on the official USCIS website. If your registration is selected in the lottery, move to the next step.
Step 4. U.S. employer files Form I-129 application with USCIS. If the beneficiary is in the U.S. in other nonimmigrant lawful status, request change of status. If the beneficiary is abroad, request USCIS to forward the approved petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country of the beneficiary’s residence. If Form I-129 is approved, move to the next step.
Step 5. If the beneficiary is in the U.S. and change of status is approved, USCIS will mail an approval notice with the new I-94 record confirming H-1B status. If the beneficiary is abroad, an H-1B visa will be issued by the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
H-1B checklist of required documents
During Step 4 described above, the U.S. employer (petitioner) submits the following documents with Form I-129:
- Completed and signed Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker
- Form I-129 Supplement H
- Form I-129 H-1B Data Collection Supplement
- Certified LCA (Form ETA-9035 or ETA-9035E)
- Petitioner’s cover letter that describes the type of business, beneficiary’s proposed occupation and how the beneficiary meets those requirements
- Information about the petitioner (annual report, description of services or products offered, etc.)
- Beneficiary’s educational credentials (degrees, transcripts, training certificates, and letters of experience if lacking a degree)
- Foreign degree credential evaluation (if the beneficiary holds a foreign degree)
- Proof of beneficiary’s current nonimmigrant status (visa, I-94, Form I-797C) – if beneficiary is in the U.S.
- Copy of beneficiary’s passport (biographic page) – if outside the U.S.
- $460 filing fee (Form I-129)
- $1,500 employer fee (unless exempt) for employers with 26 or more full-time employees; $750 for employers with 25 or fewer full-time employees
- $500 fraud fee (if applicable), or $4,000 fee for employer with at least 50 U.S. employees, of which more than 50 percent hold H-1B, L-1A, or L-1B status
- Form I-539 (for any dependents) and copies of dependents’ immigration documents (passports, visas, I-94s, I-797Cs, etc.)
- $370 filing fee (Form I-539), if applicable
- Optional premium processing fee of $2,500 and Form I-907 if the employer wants USCIS to adjudicate the petition within 15 calendar days