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What Exactly is a USA H1B Visa?

What Exactly is a USA H1B Visa?

USA H1B Visa Explained

h1b-visa-to-usa-from-india The US H1B visa is a long-term working visa that enables companies from America to outsource labour to foreign workers in occupations that require specialist knowledge such as medicine, law, engineering, technology, and science. With this visa, an American company can legally employ a worker from another country for up to six years.

Applying for a H1B visa is a much quicker process than applying for a Green Card, which allows for American citizenship and its very is popular with businesses who need to bring in employees for long term posts within the States, especially within the IT industry.

You cannot apply individually for an H1B visa , as it has to be done by your prospective employer.  H1B visas are issued every fiscal year and employers can start to apply for them six months before the employee is due to start work. All applications for this type of specialist work visa are given a special number and put in a virtual lottery to ensure fairness and equality for all applicants.

Current immigration law gives out 85,000 new H-1B visas every government fiscal year. This number includes 65,000 new H-1B visas issued for employees from other countries in professional  posts, and another 20,000 visas available for people with an advanced degree such as a Masters or Ph.D. from an American college or university or equivalent from a foreign university. Once the visa cap has been reached, no more applications can be processed until the next fiscal year apart from for institutions such as universities and nonprofit organisations, which are discussed fully in another article on avoiding the visa cap.


The US H1-B visa is designed to be used for staff with specialised skills, and the position applied for must  meet one of the criteria below to qualify as a specialty job:

  1. The degree requirement for the job is common to that particular post or the job is so specialised that it can be only be performed by a worker who is educated to degree level.
  2. Having a minimum entry requirement of a Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent is standard policy for the position.
  3. The nature of the particular duties is so specialised and complex that the knowledge required to carry out the tasks is consistent with having a degree as it is impossible to complete without the knowledge gained from having a particular degree, for example, Medicine.

For you to be allowed to accept a job offer in a post that requires specialised knowledge, one must meet the following criteria:

  1. Have gained a USA Bachelor’s or higher degree required by the post from an officially accredited foreign college or university.
  2. Hold a foreign degree that is the same as a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree in the particular job that you are currently working in.
  3. Have on the job education or experience in the specialised occupation that is equivalent to the completion of such a degree, and have worked through stages of positions to show your progress.
  4. Hold a special license or registration, which allows you to perform the particular job  in that specialty in the state where you are going to work.
  5. If the applicant does not currently have a Bachelors Degree, they must have worked in the specialist job for at least twelve years.

Visa length

The H-1B visa is first of all granted for up to three years, but may then be extended by another three years to six years in total. The applicant is then free to apply for a US ‘Green Card’ if they still wish to live and work in the United States.

Family & Dependents

Workers with H1B visas are able to bring their partner, if they are married and any children under 21, as long as they are not married into the United States, and their family will be given an H4 visa. The H4 visa allows the holder to stay in the country as long as their partner keeps their H1B visa. Apart from a few exceptions the person who has an H4 visa is not able to work in the US, but they can go to college, get a US drivers licence and open an American bank account.

About the Author

Freelance UK writer, now based in the Nederlands, specialising in travel and immigration laws.

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