What does the acronym USCIS mean? It means United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. It is the U.S. government agency that is mainly responsible for handling issues related to the status of aliens in the U.S.A.
What is an H-1B visa? It is a non-immigrant visa which permits skilled professionals normally with a minimum qualification of a bachelor’s degree to take up temporary employment in the U.S.A. up to 6 years. There are two people involved in an H-1B application process and one is called the petitioner who is the employer the other is the beneficiary who is the alien. The normal occupations that are offered H-1B status are professors, engineers, researchers, IT software programmers and other desirable foreign professionals.
What are the 5 steps required to file an H-1B petition? The first step is the offer of a job from a U.S. employer. The second step is to get the prevailing wage for job you have been offered from the National Prevailing Wage Center (NPWC). The third step is the filing of a Labor Condition Application (LCA) and gain DOL approval. The fourth step is the completion of the USCIS's H-1B forms, which should include your prospective employer’s petition letter. The fifth step is the submitting to the USCIS of a completed and signed H-1B petition.
How long does it take to obtain H-1B status?It normally takes between two and three months for an H-1B approval by USCIS. ‘Premium processing’ can speed up the process to 15 days if the $1,225 premium processing fee is paid.
Is the premium processing fee beneficial? It does mean a decision is made in 15 calendar days after the USCIS has received the application but if the H-1B quota has already been reached on the date of the application then the USCIS has the right reject the application in the same way as a non-premium processing case. The decision might be an approval, a denial, or a Request for Evidence. It is costly but if the USCIS fails to make a decision within the 15 day limit then a refund of the premium processing fee ($1225) will be issued.
What is the DOL? DOL means Department of Labor which takes responsibility for the Labor Conditions Application (LCA) features and prevailing wage of an H-1B visa petition.
What is the Prevailing Wage? This is the average salary which is paid to workers in a named occupation in the same geographical region that the H-1B visa applicant is to take up employment.
Who decides the Prevailing Wage? This is determined by the government body called the National Prevailing Wage Center.
What are the main factors which determine a job’s Prevailing Wage? These are title of the job, work experience, educational requirements, job description, whether the employer is the government or private and the location of the job.
My degree is not from a US educational institution but can I still apply for H-1B status?You will need an evaluation of your degree to check if it is equivalent to a similar degree received in a US accredited institution. We use Silvergate Evaluations at our firm to conduct these educational evaluations.
What are the key educational requirements for an H-1B? The degree that the alien has must be related to the job that the person is seeking. For example if the job involves computer software then the degree should be IT related.
What is the cap on the H-1B visa each year? It is approximately 85,000 per year (20,000 of which are reserved for candidates with a master's degree or higher from a US institution). Note: you cannot qualify for the 20,000 "master's cap" if you have a master's degree from a foreign university, or qualify by virtue of education and experience. The cap is normally filled within 7 days of the opening date each year. It is possible for some employers to file a petition on behalf of an employee which is exempt from the cap.
What is the time requirement for an H-1B Visa Application? Once a job has been offered and the alien has accepted it then the H-1B visa application can start. The application can only begin no earlier than six months before the job starts.