The H-1B visa has been the most popular long-term work visa in the United States for years, and with good reason. There is a whole host of benefits that give the H-1B an edge over the other work visa categories. From its accessibility to its lengthy initial period of stay, it’s easy to see why so many foreign professionals apply to reap the H-1B visa benefits each year.
How the H-1B Visa Benefits Foreign Workers
The broadest benefits go to the beneficiary, or foreign worker, who receives the visa. In 2016, over 236,000 H-1B visa petitions were submitted to the USCIS. If you were wondering what causes this visa to be so popular, this is why.
The first H-1B visa benefit, and perhaps the main reason for its popularity, is the broad requirements associated with qualifying for this visa. While many other working visas require the beneficiary to have a managerial position, a master’s degree, or an investment of thousands of dollars, the H-1B simply requires the following:
- A bachelor’s degree
- A job offer from a U.S. company for a specialty position that requires your bachelor’s degree.
Of course, finding an employer that has a job opening available for a position related to your educational background may not be simple, but these requirements are much easier to fulfill than the requirements for visas such as E-2, L-1, and O visa classifications.
However, depending on your situation, another work visa may be a more viable option for you. For example, if you are an entrepreneur that has significant capital but does not have a bachelor’s degree, the E-2 visa may be a better fit for your case. Speak with your immigration attorney to learn your options.
Duration of Stay
Another benefit of the H-1B visa is the amount of time you are initially granted when you receive your visa. In contrast to some of the other visas such as B-1, which grants you six months, and the J-1, which can sometimes grant you as little as one year, the H-1B allows holders to stay for three years initially and can easily be extended.
Unlike the rigid regulations surrounding some other work-related visas, the H-1B gives holders the ability to port their status from one employer to another during their stay. It also allows them to work part-time and for multiple employers at the same time.
Anyone Can Apply
One of the biggest H-1B benefits is that foreign professionals from all over the world can apply. While the E-2 visa can only be obtained by people from treaty countries and the TN is reserved for Canadians and Mexicans, the H-1B is open to nationals and citizens of any country.
Spouses and Dependents
Fortunately, you can bring your spouse and children over as dependents under the H4 visa. Their stay will be as long as the principle holder and extensions can be acquired for each H-4. Additionally, H-4 holders can now work in the U.S. after obtaining Employment Authorization Documents.
Unlike many other work visa classifications, one of the H-1B’s many benefits is the fact that it is considered to be a “dual intent” visa. This means that you can pursue legal permanent residency while under H-1B nonimmigrant status. This is a large advantage over some other visas such as the TN and J-1 classifications.
How the H-1B Visa Benefits U.S. Employers
Foreign professionals are not the only ones that stand to grow from the H-1B benefits. Employers have much to gain from as well. This visa, which caters to people with educational backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (or STEM for short), allows the best of the world’s professionals to enter the U.S. and work for your company.
Combat Local Labor Shortages
Many employers are located in areas that have a labor shortage and may not have access to qualified U.S. workers who are willing to move permanently to your area. The H-1B process gives employers the opportunity to hire temporary professionals from overseas to complete projects or fill specialty positions.
These days, in order to compete with today’s market, you need to have a global presence. Hiring H-1B employees can strengthen your competitiveness abroad and could also provide quality permanent workers if you are willing to sponsor applicants for employment-based green cards.
Disadvantages of the H-1B
Unfortunately, the H-1B visa is not without its downsides. Work with your immigration attorney to weigh the pros and the cons of this visa class in order to determine if it is the right choice for you.
The first and greatest drawback of the H-1B visa is the fact that there is an annual limit on how many petitions are approved each year. While other visas also have a limit, they are not as easy to obtain and so that limit is rarely reached. The H-1B, on the other hand, annually receives almost three times the amount of petitions than is allotted.
Because of its popularity and the regular amount of excess petitions, the USCIS has chosen to have all petitions entered into a lottery. This is the process of randomly selecting the number of petitions allowed by the annual cap, which is 85,000.
What this means for you is that there is a strong likelihood that your petition will not be selected in any given lottery. If you are not selected, you will have to wait until the following year to petition again.
However, there are some ways to avoid the lottery process and be cap-exempt. This can be done by finding a cap-exempt employer or if you are filing for an H-1B transfer or extension.
While the H-1B has an initial period of stay that rivals other popular visas such as E-2, O-1, and TN classifications, you can only extend it once to a maximum of six years. The other aforementioned visas can be extended much longer and can sometimes be extended indefinitely.
There are some instances in which an H-1B holder could stay beyond the typical six-year limit, but these are far from the typical circumstances. To see if you could qualify for an exemption from the limit, contact your immigration attorney.
Due to the lottery process, there are strict dates that must be adhered to during the process. For example, your petition cannot be filed until April 1st. Also, if your petition is selected and approved, you cannot begin working until the 1st of October of that same year. This also limits the benefits that the premium processing service has on your case.
On the other hand, other visas allow a more fluid timeline for petitioning and starting employment.
While it is one of only two major requirements for an H-1B visa, it can also be a drawback since finding a sponsoring employer can be difficult. In contrast, the E-2 and O-1 visas do not require a job offer, so beneficiaries are able to petition on their own behalf. H-1B applicants, however, must have an employer file a petition for them.
Even though all H-1B petitioning fees must be paid by your employer, they are steep and can disincentivize employers from sponsoring you. Overall, your employer may end up paying almost $7,000 in fees for your H-1B visa. At the same time, the TN visa can cost as little as $500.
How Our Immigration Attorneys Can Help
Choosing the right visa for your case can be a difficult task depending on your situation. That’s why we never recommend anyone to navigate immigration law without a qualified attorney at their side.
Our expert H-1B lawyers can assess your immigration case and help you come to an informed decision about how you want to enter the U.S. Even if you decide not to choose the H-1B visa, we can then help you through the application processes of any other work-related visa. To talk to one of our attorneys and learn if you qualify for a free consultation, fill out this simple contact form.