H-1B Visa – definition and meaning

An H-1B Visa is a type of visa the United States government gives highly-specialized foreign citizens. The holder of this type of visa can work temporarily in the US. However, to get this type of visa, the applicant must have a sponsor, i.e., an employer. Additionally, the job needs to be one in a specific list of employment areas.

Put simply; an H-1B Visa is a temporary work permit for foreigners in the United States.

Most workers with this temporary visa can file for extensions after the first three years. In fact, if their extension applications are successful, they can work in the US for six consecutive years.

Foreigners with this type of visa have a university degree. People with an H-1B Visa are guest workers. The term guest worker also includes unskilled or semi-skilled people who work in another country temporarily.

Who is H-1B Visa for?

The H-1B Visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows American employers to take on graduate-level workers.

The job vacancies are in specialty occupations that require technical or theoretical expertise in specific fields.

Examples of fields include finance, accounting, architecture, IT, medicine, and science. IT stands for Information Technology.

H-1B Visa - explanation and example
According to The Fleischer Law Firm LLC: “Employers should begin considering and vetting which of their employees may need H-1B cap-subject filings. Most commonly, these are students on F-1 optional practical training (OPT).” (Image: adapted from immigrate2usa.com)

According to workpermit.com:

“Any professional level job that usually requires you to have a bachelor’s degree or higher can come under the H-1B visa for specialty occupations.”

“If you do not have a bachelors degree or higher you may be able to show degree equivalence through work experience and/or other qualifications.”

H-1B Visas are more popular than Green Cards among US companies. They prefer them because the application process is much quicker. Therefore, the H-1B Visa is popular for employers that want to take on employees for long-term assignments in the US.

However, there is an annual cap for this type of non-immigrant work permit. Therefore, companies often have to apply for other visa categories such as the L-1A Visa for executives and managers, E-2 Treaty Investor Visa, and L-1B for specialist workers.

H-1B Visa Cap

A cap is a limit or a quota. The US government currently issues 85,000 new H-1B Visas each year. This includes 65,000 visas for foreign workers with at least a bachelor’s degree. It also includes 20,000 visas for foreign workers who graduated with an advanced degree at a US college.

According to the Department of Homeland Security website, there are several different fees to pay. Fees depend on the type of H-1B Visa petition an employer is submitting.

For details on all visa fees, you should refer to Homeland’s H and L Filing Fees for Form I-129, Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker page.

Video – What is an H-1B Visa?

This CNN Money video explains what an H-1B visa is. It also tells us why it is one of the most controversial parts of the US immigration debate.