The H-1B visa category applies to people who wish to perform services in a specialty occupation, services of exceptional merit and ability relating to a Department of Defense (DOD) cooperative research and development project, or services as a fashion model of distinguished merit or ability.
An H-1B non-immigrant, may be admitted for a period of up to three years. The time period may be extended, but generally cannot go beyond a total of six years, though some exceptions do apply.
The employer of the H-1B non-immigrant will be liable for the reasonable costs of return transportation if the employer terminates the H-1B non-immigrant before the end of his or her period of authorized stay. The employer is not responsible for the costs of the H-1B non-immigrant return transportation if he or she voluntarily resign the position. The H-1B non-immigrant must contact the Service Center that approved his or her petition in writing if it is believed that the employer has not complied with this requirement.
- Step 1: (only required for specialty occupation and fashion model petitions): Employer Submits LCA to DOL for certification. The employer must apply for and receive DOL certification of an LCA.
- Step 2: Employer Submits Completed Form I-129 to USCIS. The employer should file Form I-129, Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker, with the correct USCIS Service Center. Please see our I-129 Direct Filing Chart page. The DOL-certified LCA must be submitted with the Form I-129 (only for specialty occupation and fashion models).
- Step 3: Prospective Workers Outside the United States Apply for Visa and/or Admission. Once the Form I-129 petition has been approved, the prospective H-1B worker who is outside the United States may apply with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad for an H-1B visa (if a visa is required). Regardless of whether a visa is required, the prospective H-1B worker must then apply to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for admission to the United States in H-1B classification.
The H-1B visa has an annual numerical limit of 65,000 visas each fiscal year. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap. Additionally, H-1B workers who are petitioned for or employed at an institution of higher education or its affiliated or related nonprofit entities or a nonprofit research organization, or a government research organization are not subject to this numerical cap.
Family of H-1B Visa Holders
The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age of H-1B visa holders may seek admission in the H-4 non-immigrant classification. Family members in the H-4 non-immigrant classification may not engage in employment in the United States.
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