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H1-B/H-4 visa FAQs
General Questions
What is an H-1B?

The H-1B is a nonimmigrant classification used by an alien who will be employed temporarily in a specialty occupation or as a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability.

What is a specialty occupation?

A specialty occupation requires theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge along with at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. For example, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts are specialty occupations.

Who can an H-1B alien work for?

H-1B aliens may only work for the petitioning U.S. employer and only in the H-1B activities described in the petition. The petitioning U.S. employer may place the H-1B worker on the worksite of another employer if all applicable rules (e.g., Department of Labor rules) are followed. H-1B aliens may work for more than one U.S. employer, but must have a Form I-129 petition approved by each employer.

Is there an annual limit on the number of H-1B aliens?

Yes. The current law limits to 65,000 the number of aliens who may be issued a visa or otherwise provided H-1B status in FY2004. (The numerical limitation was temporarily raised to 195,000 in FY2001, FY2002 and FY2003.)

Must an H-1B alien be working at all times?

As long as the employer/employee relationship exists, an H-1B alien is still in status. An H-1B alien may work in full or part-time employment and remain in status. An H-1B alien may also be on vacation, sick/maternity/paternity leave, on strike, or otherwise inactive without affecting his or her status.

How long can an alien be in H-1B status?

Under current law, an alien can be in H-1B status for a maximum period of six years at a time. After that time an alien must remain outside the United States for one year before another H-1B petition can be approved. Certain aliens working on Defense Department projects may remain in H-1B status for 10 years. In addition, certain aliens may obtain an extension of H-1B status beyond the 6-year maximum period, when:

  • 365 days or more have passed since the filing of any application for labor certification, Form ETA 750, that is required or used by the alien to obtain status as an EB immigrant, or
  • 365 days or more have passed since the filing of an EB immigrant petition.
Can an H-1B alien travel outside of the U.S?

Yes. An H-1B visa allows an alien holding that status to reenter the U.S. during the validity period of the visa and approved petition.

Application Procedures?
When can I file an H-1B Cap petition?

H-1B petitions can be filed six months in advance of the requested start date. Therefore, petitions seeking an October 1, 2008 start date can be filed no sooner than April 1, 2008. This is when the majority of H-1B cap subject petitions are filed. Conversely, petitions that are cap exempt may be filed at any time during the year, dependent on the petitioner’s need.

What is Premium Processing Service?

For certain employment-based immigration benefits, petitioners may choose to file a Form I-907 with the accompanying filing fee of $1,000 to have their petition adjudicated within 15 calendar days (this fee is in addition to the required base filing and other applicable fees). H-1B petitions are eligible for the Premium Processing program. The Form I-907 can be filed at the same time as or subsequent to the filing of Form I-129. If filed subsequent to the Form I-129, please be sure to include the receipt number (i.e. EAC 08 123 51234) of the Form I-129 in the pertinent section of Form I-907. Please use the latest version of Form I-907 . Versions prior to August 28, 2006 will not be accepted. For more information concerning the Premium Processing program, please visit the link "How Do I Use the Premium Processing Service?" .