The H-1B visa program permits the temporary employment of foreign workers in specialty occupations such as scientists, engineers, or computer programmers. A specialty occupation requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in the specific specialty. Congress has established an annual fiscal year limitation of 65,000 on the number of available H-1B visas, commonly referred to as the “H-1B cap.”
The upcoming H-1B visa fiscal year (2008) runs from October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008. USCIS will accept H-1B visa petitions for FY 2008 starting on April 1, 2007. You may recall that the FY 2007 cap was reached on May 26, 2007. This year we expect the H-1B cap may be reached even earlier due to the increased demand from cases that did not make the FY 2007 cap. In order to beat the rush for the limited number of H-1B visa numbers available, prospective H-1B workers should start preparing a packet of the basic documents needed for an initial H-1B petition.
Basic Steps for H-1B Visa:
There are three basic steps for an employer and prospective H-1B visa worker to take in order to obtain an H-1B visa.
Step One : An employer must file a Labor Condition Application (“LCA”), Form ETA 9035E, with the Department of Labor. By completing and signing the LCA, the employer agrees to several attestations regarding an employer’s responsibilities, including the wages, working conditions, and benefits to be provided to the H-1B visa worker.
Step Two : Once the DOL has certified the LCA, the employer must file the LCA along with a petition for H-1B status, Form I-129 with supplemental forms, with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) center. USCIS will accept H-1B visa petitions for FY 2008 starting on April 1, 2007.
Step Three : If the applicant is outside the U.S., when the petition is approved, a copy of the approved petition is sent to the U.S. consulate designated on the petition and the H-1B visa worker can then go to the consulate to make his or her nonimmigrant visa application. Note: Canadian citizens are visa exempt and do not need to obtain an H-1B visa. Instead, Canadian citizens may be admitted into the U.S. by presenting the original I-797 approval notice for their H-1B petition.
Documentation Generally Needed for I-129 Petition:
The following list provides the general documentation required in support of an I-129 petition (Step Two) for H-1B status. Individuals considering filing a petition for H-1B status should start collecting these materials.
Valid passport: unless exempt, an applicant generally should have a valid passport with an expiration date of at least April 2010 for petitions seeking the Oct. 1, 2007 start date and three years of H-1B status.
If already in the U.S.: Copies of current Visa, I-797, I-94, I-20, or EAD.
Copies of Degrees, Transcripts, Diplomas, Certificates.
Academic/Experience Evaluation – if necessary, e.g., to prove possession of the equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree.
Evidence of Name Change - if necessary, e.g., where name on degrees is different from current legal name.
Compare NAFTA TN Status vs. H-1B Visa Status.