What Is the H-1B Visa?

Last Updated on May 24, 2024

What does the H-1B Visa Do? 

Excellent employers know that a skilled and talented foreign workforce is essential for their company’s success. H visas are available for temporary and longer-term employment and may be the perfect visa option for your company.   

What is the H-1B Visa?

The H-1B visa is designated for individuals working in a specialty occupation, which is defined as a position requiring at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific or related field (or its equivalent). The sponsored foreign national must have at least a bachelor’s degree in that specific or related field (or its equivalent). 

Examples of Specialty Occupations: 

  • Biotechnology 
  • Education 
  • Engineering 
  • Computer Sciences 
  • Management 
  • Medicine 
  • Many more 

Do I Qualify for the H-1B? 

Additionally, to qualify for the H-1B visa, the proposed position must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a specific or related field (or its equivalent). 

In addition, individuals must have completed a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a field of study related to the position. If the individual obtained the degree overseas, or it is not a four-year bachelor’s degree, an education evaluation must be completed to verify that through education or experience, the individual has the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. 

The salary for the position must meet minimum prevailing wage requirements. 

How Long Can I Stay in the U.S. With an H-1B? 

The H-1B visa timeline, authorized period of stay and renewal timeline.

The initial period of stay for an H-1B visa holder in the U.S. is typically three years. 

After the initial period of stay, employers may file a renewal or extension for the H-1B employee, which should extend the stay by up to three more years. Eligible visa holders may stay in the U.S. for six years in H-1B nonimmigrant status. 

H-1B and Green Card 

H-1B holders who have completed select portions of the green card application process may be able to extend their status beyond the six-year max-out date. 

We recommend that you speak to your attorney if the temporary nature of the assignment changes. 

How Much Does the H-1B Cost?

The cost of the H-1B visa and other fees as of April1, 2024.
USCIS increased filing fees on April 1, 2024. For additional insights on visa filing fees, check out our latest blog.

As of April 1, 2024, these are the current H-1B fees: 

  • I-129 H-1B: $460 to $780. 
  • Premium processing fees have increased from $2,500 to $2,805. USCIS will adjudicate the H-1B petition—meaning they will approve, issue a request for evidence or deny the petition—within 15 business days. 

What is the H-1B Lottery? 

Most first-time H-1B petitions are subject to the annual visa lottery. Each year, the government issues 85,000 total visas. This number is broken down into two groups: 20,000 H-1B visas are reserved for individuals with a master’s degree or higher and 65,000 are for all others that qualify. 

To enter the H-1B lottery, employers must enter an employee or candidate into the H-1B electronic registration system and pay an associated registration fee. 

What is the H-1B Registration Process? 

In February 2024, USCIS published key improvements to the selection process. Specifically, the program changes reduce the potential for fraud in the registration system and give all beneficiaries equal potential for being selected, regardless of the number of registrations submitted on their behalf. Now, registrations will be chosen based on the unique beneficiary instead of registration, giving all beneficiaries an equal chance of being selected regardless of the number of registrations employers submit on their behalf.”  

The H-1B lottery selection process begins with an online electronic registration of qualified H-1B beneficiaries. Employers or designated attorneys input information about their company and each potential lottery recipient. Each H-1B beneficiary’s information is entered into the online system and a nonrefundable $10 fee is required for each lottery registrant. 

While the registration process is relatively straightforward, it requires a coordinated effort between an organization’s immigration counsel and their immigration program manager.  

USCIS then conducts the random H-1B lottery by selecting from the completed online registrations. USCIS will first select registrations for the H-1B regular cap and then select registrations toward the master’s or advanced degree cap.  

Next, USCIS will electronically notify petitioners, the designated company representative and the immigration provider of selections. Selections typically occur prior to April 1, and selected registrations must submit completed H-1B petitions within 90 days of lottery selection.  

Labor Condition Applications in the H-1B Process

It is important to note that lottery selection does not guarantee approval of the H-1B petition. All petitioners and their employees must demonstrate all mandatory qualifications, such as degree and salary, to be eligible for the H-1B visa. The Labor Condition Application (LCA) is needed as a supplemental document.  

Beginning in FY 2025 registrations will be chosen based on the unique beneficiary instead of registration. Registrants who qualify for the Master’s cap have a great chance of being selected. 

What is the H-1B Registration Timeline? 

Overview of the H-1B lottery and registration timeline.

USCIS generally follows the below-estimated timeline during H-1B registration: 

  • February: Petitioners and registrants can begin creating H-1B registrant accounts. 
  • Early March: H-1B registration period opens. 
  • Mid-March: H-1B registration period closes.  
  • Late March: Date by which USCIS intends to notify selected registrants. 
  • April: The earliest date that FY 2024 H-1B cap-subject petitions may be filed. 

Please note that dates may change during future H-1B cap seasons. 

H-1B Applicants Located Outside the U.S.  

If the foreign national is outside the U.S., they likely will need to apply for a visa to enter the U.S. in the specific visa category prior to entering the U.S. in the specific status. 

What is H-1B Cap Exemption? 

The sponsored position must be one of the following to qualify for an exemption from the H-1B cap lottery: 

  • Institutions of higher education. 
  • Non-profit research organizations. 
  • Government research organizations. 
  • Primary or secondary education institutions. 
  • Non-profit entities that engage in established curriculum-related clinical training. 

Additional examples where cap exemption applies include:

  • Petitions for changes of employer.
  • An extension with the same employer.
  • Amendment petitions with no request for extension.
  • Corrections of a previously approved H-1B of service errors.

These situations typically arise when the H-1B nonimmigrant has already received H-1B nonimmigrant status through the cap lottery process. 

About Envoy Global and the H-1B Process

Envoy Global can help you navigate H-1B cap season and other immigration matters by combining top immigration law firms and a robust technology platform. For H-1B visa news, check out our resources page. Or if you’re seeking to simplify your company’s immigration program, contact us to learn more. 

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Envoy is pleased to provide you with this information, which was prepared in Corporate Immigration Partners, P.C., a U.S. law firm who provides services through the Envoy Platform (the “U.S. Law Firm”).  

Content in this publication is for informational purposes only and not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. Envoy is not a law firm, and does not provide legal advice. If you would like guidance on how this information may impact your particular situation and you are a client of the U.S. Law Firm, consult your attorney. If you are not a client of the U.S. Law Firm working with Envoy, consult another qualified professional. This website does not create an attorney-client relationship with the U.S. Law Firm.