Disclaimer: Immigration policies change over time. It is important to consult an attorney for the most up-to-date and accurate information on visas.
Purpose: The H-1B visa was created to enable U.S. employers to fill specialized positions that require technical or theoretical expertise. This expertise can be in science, engineering, mathematics, programming or similar areas.
Specialty Occupation: There are certain requirements that must be met in order to be considered a “specialty occupation”. It must have theoretical and practical application of a body or highly specialized knowledge. It also requires the applicant to have at lease a bachelors degree or equivalent in their specified field.
Sponsorship: An H-1B visa applicant requires an employer in the United States that will sponsor them. The employer files a petition on behalf of the applicant in order to verify that the position is specialized and that the candidate has the skillset or knowledge to fulfill this specialization.
Cap and Lottery System: There is a numerical limit on the amount of H-1B visas that are processed and issues each fiscal year. That cap is currently set at 65’000 visas with an additional 20’000 visas reserved for applicants who have achieved a U.S. master’s degree or higher. After the cap has been reached a lottery system is employed in order to randomly select the recipients from the pool of applicants.
Duration: H-1B visas are usually granted on a 3 year basis. The duration can be extended an additional 3 years with the maximum being 6 years. Certain exceptions can exist that permit extensions beyond 6 years.
Dependents: H-1B visa holders may bring their spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to the United States under the H-4 dependent visa. H-4 visa holders are usually not allowed to work in the United States, however, recent eligibility changes were introduced that may permit certain H-4 spouses to obtain employment authorization.
H-1B1: the H-1B1 visa is a subcategory of the H-1B1 visa that is available exclusively to Chile and Singapore. These visas have a separate cap. Chile has an allocation of 1’400 visas per fiscal year and Singapore has an allocation of 5’400. Note that these caps are completely separate from the regular H-1B cap.