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H-1B Application Process: Step by Step Guide

The H-1B visa is a highly desired non-immigrant visa which permits foreign workers in specialty occupations to enter the country. This infographic illustrates some of the basic components of the H-1B application process including quotas imposed, filing costs, and an outline of the procedures necessary. Last year, the USCIS received such an overwhelming number of petitions, that the official season lasted a mere five days!

H1B Application Process Step by Step Infographic

H1B Application Process 2017-2018: Step by Step Infographic


This fiscal year, the window opens on April 1st and based on past seasons we predict the response rate to be just as high. What this means is that it’s increasingly important to organize your documents for submission and complete the other necessary steps in the process.

First Steps–Identifying a Sponsor

Before you can submit an H-1B visa petition and carry out the H-1B application process you must first find a sponsoring company or employer. If you’re currently in the United States as a student on an F1 visa, you should check with your employer as to whether or not they can sponsor you on an H-1B visa. If you are on an L1 visa or another visa status, it’s best to contact an immigration attorney to explore your specific case.

H-1B Visa 2018 Quota Categories

The H-1B quota is the maximum number of petitions accepted within that category. There are three main categories within the H-1B visa season as the infographic illustrates:

Regular H-1B Quota: 65,000

Master’s Degree Quota: 20,000

Citizens of Chile and Singapore: 6,800 from the regular quota are reserved for citizens of Chile and Singapore as part of the Free Trade Agreement.

Cap Exempt H-1B: No quota imposed

H-1B Application Process Filing Fees Explained

H-1B application process fees are typically all paid by the employer who is sponsoring the foreign worker. Below is a breakdown of the standard filing costs:

  • Base filing fee: $460
  • ACWIA fee: $750 for employers with 1-25 full-time employees or $1,500 for employers with 26+ full-time workers
  • Fraud prevention & detection fee: $500
  • Premium Processing (optional): $1,440

This is a brief breakdown of the fees and is subject to change depending on the size of your organization as well as other details. Click here to get a complete breakdown of the H-1B application process fees for 2017-2018.

Master’s Quota Eligibility and Requirements

To be eligible for the master’s quota (advanced-degree exemption) there are a number of requirements you must first meet. You must have received your master’s degree from an accredited U.S. based institution. The institution also has to be public or non-profit in nature as well as accredited by a national accrediting agency. It’s best to not assume that your U.S. institution is automatically accredited because that’s not always the case.

H-1B Application Process Steps

Step 1: The first step of the H-1B application process is for the U.S. employer to file the H-1B petition on behalf of the foreign worker. Be sure the employment letter includes the position’s exact duties, dates of employment,  detailed description, salary offered, position requirements, contact information, etc.

Step 2: The prevailing and actual wages should be confirmed by the State Employment Security Agency. If the prevailing wage exceeds the offer made by the prospective employer then a wage determination will be sought. It’s important to ensure that the foreign worker will not be working below the min. prevailing wage in the specific location. The Foreign Labor Certification Data Center maintains the prevailing wage determinations by location.

Step 3:  The third step of the H-1B application process is to file the Labor Condition Application (ETA-9035).

Step 4: The next step is to prepare the petition and file it at the proper USCIS office.

Step 5: Processing times for H-1B application petitions are subject to vary from location to location. If you would like your petition expedited you may elect for premium processing. There is an additional charge for this service and it does not necessarily guarantee an approval.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: As of March 3, 2017, the USCIS will be temporarily suspending the premium processing service for all H-1B petitions filed for the 2018 season.

Step 6: The final step of the H-1B application process is to check the status of your H-1B visa petition by entering your receipt number here. Once USCIS has your application on file, they will update your status on their system.

About SGM Law Group

SGM Law Group is an immigration firm that delivers exceptional service to clients around the world. We specialize in H-1B visa cases, employment green cards, family immigration cases, investor visas, and more. With a highly competitive H-1B filing fee and efficient service, our firm is one of the most trusted in South Florida. You can fill out this form to see if you qualify for a free H-1B visa consultation to explore the steps of the H-1B application process.