Every year, U.S. employers seeking highly skilled foreign professionals submit their petitions on the first business day in April for the pool of H-1B visa numbers for which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) controls the allocation. With a statutory limit of 65,000 visa numbers available for new hires—and 20,000 additional visa numbers for foreign professionals who graduate with a Master’s or Doctorate from a U.S. university—in recent years demand for H-1B visa numbers has outstripped the supply and the cap has been reached quickly. This fact sheet provides an overview of the H-1B visa category and petition process, addresses the myths perpetuated about the H-1B visa category, and highlights the key contributions H-1B workers make to the U.S. economy.
Overview of the H-1B Visa Category and the Petition Process
What is the H-1B visa category?
* The H-1B is a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa category that allows employers to petition for highly educated foreign professionals to work in “specialty occupations” that require at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. Jobs in fields such as mathematics, engineering, and technology often qualify. Typically, the initial duration of an H-1B visa classification is three years, which may be extended for a maximum of six years.
* Before the employer can file a petition with USCIS, the employer must take steps to ensure that hiring the foreign worker will not harm U.S. workers. First, employers must attest, on a labor condition application (LCA) certified by the Department of Labor (DOL), that employment of the H-1B worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. Employers must also provide existing workers with notice of their intention to hire an H-1B worker.
* Since the category was created in 1990, Congress has limited the number of H-1Bs made available each year. The current annual statutory cap is 65,000 visas, with 20,000 additional visas for foreign professionals who graduate with a Master’s or Doctorate from a U.S. institution of higher learning (Figure 1). In recent years, the limit has been reached only a few days after the petition submission period began.
By AMERICAN IMMIGRATION COUNCIL
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