The H-1B visa category is available to individuals employed in the US in a “specialty occupation.” A specialty occupation requires a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specialized field of knowledge as a minimum for entry into the occupation. Some specialty occupations include but are not limited to: accounting, engineering, law, architecture, scientific research and many other job types.
An H-1B visa requires a valid offer of employment from a U.S. employer, the employer must be willing to pay a “prevailing wage” as determined by the Department of Labor, the occupation must require a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specialized field of knowledge as a minimum qualification and, the foreign national must have the required degree, or its foreign equivalent.
H-1B visas are valid for 3 years and may be extended to a total of 6 years. In certain circumstances, H-1B visa holders may extend their status beyond the 6 years. For example, if the H1B visa holder is currently a beneficiary of an I-140 Petition for Immigrant Worker pending based on an offer of future employment, pursuant to an approved Labor Certification from the Department of Labor, the H1B may be extended for a 7th year. If the I-140 Petition for Immigrant Worker has been approved, than H-1B status may be extended for up to 3 additional years creating the possibility of 10 years of H1B status.
H-1B workers who lose their jobs must either find another employer to petition on their behalf, change to a different immigration status or return to their home country. A spouse or unmarried child of a person with H-1B visa status may obtain an H-4 visa. Individuals with H-4 visa status cannot work in the United States, but may attend school. Under current law, there is an annual limit of 65,000 aliens who may be issued H-1B status but up to 20,000 additional H-1B slots are available to graduates of US masters degree (or higher) programs and there are some types of jobs that are exempt from the H-1B cap. H1B visas become available upon the beginning of the fiscal year which is October 1 of the current year.