Many people contact our team about work visas for the United States. Because the H-1B is the most common category of visa, we have dedicated an entire article to explaining it.
First of all, you should know that the H-1B visa is not the easiest to obtain, however thousands of foreigners go to work and live in the United States each year with this type of visa.
In light of this fact, the first thing you should do is check to see if the company you currently work for has a corporate office or branch in the United States. Depending on your occupation and degree, you may be able to ask for an internal transfer and work in the United States with an L visa. The American branch will need to apply for the L visa. If you meet the eligibility requirements and your transfer is sufficiently justified by the company, it is unlikely that your application will be denied (although approval is never guaranteed for any visa!).
The H-1B visa is for those workers who have qualifying educational or professional experience. In order to apply for an H-1B visa, you must meet the following requirements:
- Have completed a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specific “specialty occupation” from an accredited college or university
- Hold a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a US bachelor’s or higher degree in the “specialty occupation”
- Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification which authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation
- Have education, training, or progressively responsible experience in the specialty that is equivalent to the completion of such a degree, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty.
Are you eligible for this visa? Now you must find a sponsor. This sponsor is a company that will in turn need to make a case for hiring a foreign worker rather than employing an American. In this respect, Americans and Europeans differ, Americans preferring to hire locally rather than taking advantage of foreign resources.
The tedious and expensive process associated with these types of visas is designed to discourage American companies from hiring foreign workers. However, some American companies have a lot of experience with the procedure and hire foreign employees every year. Do not waste your time on job search websites applying to many positions: focus your efforts and send your resume to companies that would be likely to sponsor you.
If you find a company that is interested in hiring you, the company will begin the visa process. H-1B applications are accepted beginning on April 1st, so make sure yours is completed by this date.
Steps for applying for an H-1B visa:
The company interested in hiring you must file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using the I-129 form. After the request has been approved, the employer receives the I-797, “Notice of Approval” form.
Once the I-797 form is received, you must call the United States embassy in Paris to schedule a visa interview at the consulate. Do not forget to mention your reference number, found on the I-129/I-797 form.
American authorities award 65,000 H-1B visas each year, plus an additional 20,000 which are reserved for holders of an MBA from an American university. If the number of visa applications surpasses the quota, a lottery system will go into effect. If you are approved for an H-1B visa, you will be allowed to start work with your American employer in the month of October. H-1B visas are issued for a period of up to 3 years, and may be renewed up to 6 years.
Family members (spouse, children) accompanying the H-1B visa holder must apply for H4 visas that do not allow them to work.
The H-1B visa is issued for the employer making the request. If you change employers, the portability principle allows you to keep working in the United States while the new employer files a transfer petition with the USCIS. However, if you are fired and have not found another employer, you will have 10 days to leave the country!
Finally, the reason that H-1B visas are so sought after is because they can lead to green card acquisition. Additionally, if you have applied for a green card more than 365 days before your H-1B visa expires, you can ask for an extension on your visa beyond the normal 6 years of validity.
You are eligible to a H-1B visa? Then don’t waste your time contacting companies randomly and hoping one of them will help you get a visa. Most companies don’t. Aim your efforts to the companies that regularly sponsor visas and help foreign professionals work in the USA. Here are our lists of companies that regularly hire foreign professionals such as yourself.