8 Things to Know About the H-1B Visa Process

What is one thing all employers and applicants should know about the H-1B visa process?
To help you prepare for the H-1B visa process, we asked immigration experts, recruiting professionals, and business leaders this question for their best advice.

From recognizing the applicant education-level cap to developing a long-term plan, there are several things to know that may help you during the visa process. Here are eight things to know about the H-1B visa process.

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8 Things to Know About the H-1B Visa Process

Recognize the Applicant Education-Level Cap

The H-1B visa process isn’t as straightforward as other visa applications. There is an incredibly high demand for H-1Bs and a cap on the number of visas for those with less than a master’s degree.

This usually triggers a completely random lottery each year, which can bring much uncertainty into your hiring process. You may be able to get around it by hiring a foreign worker with an advanced degree since they’re exempt from the cap.

Ryan Nouis, TruPath

Be Aware of Time Constraints

The H-1B visa processing time, depending on the individual circumstances of each petition and whether additional evidence is needed, may take from two to six months. There is a premium processing option that claims to take only 15 working days.

One way to aid your application is to work backward from the fixed deadline of the H-1B window opening in April if you’re aiming to begin employment in October.

Amit Raj, The Links Guy

Know the Employer and Applicant Requirements

Employers should know whether they qualify to hire foreign workers, they must get an approved Labor Conditions Application (LCA) from the US Department of Labor.

Applicants should know that the H-1B Visa is tied to a specific employer, which means you can only work for the petitioning employer. If you want to work for a different employer, the new employer needs to file a concurrent H-1B petition for you.

Stewart McGrenary, Freedom Mobiles

Be Prepared to Wait

The process can be a lengthy one. It can take several months to actually process the H-1B visa. The good news, though, is that employers can try to speed up the process by paying an additional fee for premium processing.

This ensures that the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) will rush the petition through within a couple of weeks. The H-1B visa also remains valid for up to a total of three years, with an option to renew.

Sarah Pirrie, Healist Naturals

Consider Immigration Law Firms

Even though it adds to the costs, use an immigration law firm that specializes in H-1B visas. These law firms know the best path for success, have previous experience so they avoid mistakes, and share much of the administrative burden.

However, they have their own time constraints, which means you have to start even sooner than the posted government deadlines. Regardless, the value they add is worth the additional cost.

Logan Mallory, Motivosity

Understand Lottery Opportunities

People having a master’s degree must first place their application into a lottery pool alongside those of other master’s candidates. When the lottery pool’s visa quota is reached, the remaining applications that were not chosen enter the general pool and go through the selection process again.

As a result, if an applicant has a master’s degree, they will have two opportunities to be chosen for a visa, but individuals who simply have a bachelor’s degree will only be eligible for the ordinary lottery pool.

Axel Hernborg, Tripplo

Accept That There Are No Guarantees

One common misconception among H-1B visa petitioners is that if they follow the letter of the law and submit applications completed with every “t” crossed and “i” dotted that their applications will be approved with a rubber stamp. They believe this to be especially true when they engage an attorney and pay fat legal fees.

However, the reality is that there is no guarantee your visa application will be approved if done properly — in fact, it’s far from it. In 2019 — prior to the craziness around visas caused by COVID-19 — the USCIS was denying more than one-third of all initial H-1B petitions. Even renewals were seeing a denial rate of over 10%. So don’t be shocked if you get denied, even if you follow all the rules.

John Ross, Test Prep Insight

Develop a Long-Term Plan

I think one thing that both employers and employees should keep in mind about the H-1B process is its unpredictability. Once a job gets out of certain well-known roles, it can become harder to predict whether USCIS will approve the petition, and when. USCIS issues large numbers of cumbersome Requests for Evidence (RFEs) and outright denials of H-1B petitions — both of which can lead to substantial delays.

And that’s only once the employer is able to file; there is an annual application process beginning on April 1 for employees to start working by October 1. There’s also an annual quota for H-1B visas (the “cap”) and most applicants will not receive a place in the lottery.

This is why it’s important for employers to have a long-term strategy for their employees. It may be the case that you’ll have to apply multiple years before being picked in the lottery and given the chance to actually submit a petition.

Maggie Riley, Boundless Immigration

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