If you are a student who just graduated or a foreign national who wants to work in the United States, the H1-B Specialty Occupation is the visa that you should seriously consider.
Recently, the H1-B visa has become one of the most sought-after visas as United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) only issues 85,000 visas per year.
Also, the number of H1-B applicant has increased significantly forcing the USCIS to run a lottery selection process in order to decide which applicants receive a visa.
Currently, policy concerning H1-B visa is a heavily debated topic because it concerns employment of local U.S. citizens.
There are many proposed bills requesting changes to the H1-B visa program. Some might increase the chance of getting the visa, while some may make it harder to obtain the visa.
In this 3-part H1-B series, we will analyze the current requirements, fees and charges for the visa, how the lottery works, chances getting the visa, the Pro and Cons and the potential future of the visa.
There are the requirements in order to qualify for the H1-B visa:
• There must be an employment relationship with the applicant.
H1-B is a work visa which means that one must be hired to file an application. Also, the employer, the sponsor, is the main applicant for the H1-B visa, not the employee.
The employment position must qualify as a specialty occupation by meeting one of the following criteria:
- A bachelor’s degree or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum requirement for the particular position;
- The degree requirement is common for this position in the industry or the job is so complex or unique that it can only be performed by someone with at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the position;
- The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position; or
- The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.
What USCIS adjudicators look for in an H1-B petition prove that the job requires a set of professional skillset. The foreign national employee has such skillset to be hired for the job.
• The job must be in a specialty occupation related to your field of study.
• The job position must be paid at least the actual or prevailing wage for your occupation, whichever is higher.
Fees and Charges
As mentioned above the primary applicant for the visa is the employer. A major challenge that someone seeking an H1-B visa faces is convincing an employer to pay the fees in order to apply for the H1-B visa on behalf of the employee.
Here is a breakdown of H1-B applications fees:
Although the maximum fee is $10,685, it is different for each case. This is determined by the company they work for and how much the attorney charges for filling the application.
H1-B cap and lottery
Currently, the maximum number of H1-B visas issued is 85,000. Of the 85,000 visas, 20,000 is reserved for those with a master’s degree or higher and 65,000 for bachelor’s degree.
If the number of petitions exceed the cap, USCIS will run a lottery to determine which applicants are selected for the petition evaluation process. If a lottery takes place, the first 20,000 are picked from the pool of applicants with a master’s degree and higher.
Then, those that were not picked from the master’s and above pool will be added into the pool of applicants qualifying with only a bachelor’s degree. This pool will reward 65,000 visas to those that are picked.
The benefit of having the master’s degree is qualifying for both pools of selection. Those with a bachelor’s degree only qualify for the second round of selection, greatly reducing their chances of being selected in the lottery.
With a limited cap, chances of getting H1-B depend on the number of applicants for the current year and the percentage of master’s degree or higher applicants that apply.
The following is a projection for 236,000 applicants,
The USCIS website does not disclose the number of masters or higher petitions, but it is safe to assume there is between 20%- 50% of master’s or higher petitions, which means if you hold a master’s degree or higher, you have around 50% chance of getting the visa. 50% is the probability of a coin flip.
If you are an undergraduate student, then your chances are much less.
This might be difficult for students that are on Optional Practical Training (OPT) because they might have to leave the United States if they do not get the visa. With the cap staying the same, it is very likely that there will be more petitions being filed this year.
Because people who did not get the visa last year might try again in the coming year.
Here is a chart showing number of petitions for recent years:
Figure 1 Data obtained in USCIS website’s Press Release
Back in 2012, there was no lottery as the cap was reached around June.
As the chart indicated, the number of petition has doubled in the recent years. In April, 2016, when USCIS started to receive petition for 2017, USCIS received over 236,000 applications; therefore, it is very likely that total number petitions will increase. This means the chances of getting the visa might be even lower.
This concludes the first of part of the H1-B series, stay tune for part 2 which we will examine the benefits and drawbacks of H1-B nonimmigrant, compare to with another immigrant and non-immigrant visas such as EB-5 and the current state of the visa.
For more information regarding the H-1B and how you can become a U.S. citizen please contact us at, firstname.lastname@example.org
The information in this article is meant for general information purposes only and should not be taken as legal advice. Please consult an immigration attorney for your specific immigration needs.