Are you a foreign national interested in working in the United States on a H-1B visa? Are you unsure about how to obtain the authorization to do so, or how to find employment within the United States?
This article will offer guidance to foreign nationals interested in getting an H-1B visas so they can work in the U.S for an employer legally. We will explain how foreign workers can qualify for H-1B status and provide some tips and tricks on how to secure a H-1B visa.
Do you Qualify for an H-1B Visa?
In order to qualify to receive an H-1B visa, you have to have an offer of temporary work from an American employer, at a job in a “specialty occupation”. After getting your job offer, an employer will then begin the application process by filling out an I-129 petition to USCIS. USCIS assess four criteria to determine if a job qualifies as a specialty occupation. Those criteria are;
- The position requiring at least a bachelor’s or higher degree, or the equivalent thereof.
- The degree requirement is common for the industry or the job is so unique or complex that it could only be performed by someone with that degree
- The employer normally requires a degree or an equivalent thereof for the position
- The nature of the specific duties for the job are so complex and specialized that the knowledge necessary to do them is associated with obtaining a bachelor’s or higher degree
In practice, the USCIS will deem most occupations qualify as being specialty occupations. If you have a job in the medical, scientific, research, or engineering professions, then you should have no problem demonstrating how your occupation counts as a specialty one. If you are working in another industry such as restaurant/food services, IT, or retail, then you could have to provide evidence to support your claim that it classes as a specialty occupation.
Outside of requiring that your job is a specialty occupation, you – the potential H-1B employee – has to demonstrate that you do indeed hold a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent for your country. If you earned your degree studying in the United States, you should likely have no issue proving this.
If you obtained your degree from a foreign university, then you could have to obtain what is known as a credential evaluation. There are lots of companies that provide this service. They review your transcripts, degree program, and the courses you took at university. They use the information to determine if the degree you have is the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or not. The companies then offer a detailed report that explains why the degree is an equivalent, which can be used as proof of your educational credentials.
It’s possible that you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, or any kind of degree. Don’t worry too much if that’s the case, as you could still apply for – and receive – an H-1B visa. U.S immigration law allows for someone to substitute the bachelor’s degree requirement with work experience that proves they are qualified for the job they are being offered. As a general rule, USCIS considers three years of employment to be the equivalent of one year of degree coursework. That means that, if you don’t have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent you would have to have 12 years of work experience.
How to Find an Employer in the US
As mentioned before, you would need to have a temporary job offer in place from a U.S employer before applying for a H-1B visa. If you are already within the U.S, you can contact employers from your field to discuss if they have a position available, and if they would be willing to bring you on as a H-1B visa.
U.S immigration laws require H-1B employers to pay some immigration fees, and some employers may not be willing to cover the cost of those fees. On top of that, H-1B employers are required to comply to special labor regulations, and they may not want to subject their company to those extra regulations. Don’t be discouraged if an employer isn’t willing to take you on as a H-1B employee. There are still many businesses and companies that would be willing to take you on, so be sure to keep looking.
Things may be more difficult if you aren’t already in the U.S, but it is still entirely possible. Contact American employers in your chosen field and explain the situation to them. Send them your resume via email and ask them if they have any openings available and if they could hold an interview through phone or email. If you’ve got friends, relatives, or colleagues in the United States, then network with them and find out if they know about any employers who would consider hiring an H-1B worker such as yourself.
What Kind of Job to Look For
When you conduct your job search, it is best to find positions related to your degree or work experience. USCIS could question your petition for a H-1B visa if you are applying for a job as a chef when you have a Computer Science degree. They may feel that the prospective job isn’t a specialized location. You can avoid this by applying for jobs that match your field of study.
Is Timing Important?
Timing is important as Congress only allows for 65,000 H-1B visas to be issued each fiscal year, which ends on October 1. The USCIS receives well over 65,000 H-1B petitions every year, meaning that the allowance is passed before some even get the chance to file an application.
If you file your application after the cap has been reached, your application is automatically rejected and you are unable to obtain a visa for that fiscal year. However, not every application will be subject to this cap. Depending upon your individual personal circumstances, you may not have to worry about the cap on H-1B visas at all.
It’s important that you keep in mind H-1B status is only temporary. That means that acquiring an H-1B visa does not mean you are guaranteed to receive permanent residence (a green card). On top of this; the complications that come from the cap on H-1B visas offered each year, the maximum stay of six years, and other immigration laws, it’s recommended that you get in touch with an immigration attorney that specializes in those matters. Discuss your personal circumstances and individual case with them, and get their advice.