Specialty Occupation (H-1B)
The H-1B visa is available for professionals who intend to work in "specialty occupations" in the United States. Such occupations include architecture, computer programming, accounting, engineering, nursing and management consulting. Generally, to be eligible for an H-1B visa, the applicant must have at least a bachelor’s degree or degree equivalent in a specialty field.
85,000 new H-1B visas are granted each year. Of these, 20,000 visas are restricted to applicants with a U.S. master’s degree or higher. Once the yearly numerical limit of H1-B visas has been reached, no more H-1B visas are granted. For this reason, timely filing of an H-1B application is essential.
Duration of Visa
An H-1B nonimmigrant is admitted to the U.S. for a period of up to three years. This time period may be extended but generally cannot go beyond a total of six years. Under certain circumstances, if an H-1B visa holder is applying for employment-based permanent residence, he/she may apply for an extension of the visa beyond six years.
Labor Conditions Application
Prospective U.S. employers of H-1B visa applicants must file a Labor Conditions Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor. Among other things, in the LCA, the employer must attest to the fact that the H-1B applicant will be paid the higher of (i) the actual wage paid by the employer to all other individuals with similar experience and qualifications, or (ii) the prevailing wage level for the applicant's occupation in the area of employment.
FAMILY VISA ELIGIBILITY
Spouses and minor children (under the age of 21) of H-1B visa holders may apply for an H-4 visa, which allows them to accompany H-1B visa holders during their stay in the U.S. H-4 visa holders are not allowed to work in the U.S.