Francisco A. Laguna & Annapurna Nandyal
Today, we continue our discussion of temporary work visas for the United States, focusing on H-1B visas.
The popularity of the H-1B visa program has increased tremendously in recent years, resulting in Congressional action to enact temporary and permanent increases in the annual visa cap limits. Currently, there is an annual cap of 85,000 H-1B visas mandated by Congress. Certain numerical limitations are placed on the H-1B visas:
- 58,200 visas are available for initial H-1B applicants
- 6,800 visas are reserved for citizens of Singapore and Chile under free trade agreements
- 20,000 visas are reserved for those with graduate degrees from U.S. institutions
- No limits apply to the number of visas issued to universities, research institutions and non-profit organizations.
Each of the H-1B quota above applies to the fiscal year which begins October 1st. Applications for the upcoming fiscal year are accepted on April 1st of the preceding year. So for fiscal year 2016, the US Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) begins accepting applications as of April 1, 2015. Cap limits are reached quickly: in 2014, the USCIS received 172,500 H-1B petitions for the 85,000 visas available. To address this excess interest, the USCIS allocates H-1Bs by using a lottery/random selection system.
Benefits of H-1B Visas
Holders of H-1B visas enjoy numerous benefits, unlike most of the non-immigrant visas:
- Ability to extend their stay beyond the six-year limit in certain situations, for example, getting an employment-based green card
- No requirement to show ties to their home country and filing for a green card will not jeopardize their visa status
- Ability to change employers while the H-1B is valid
- Ability to have more than one US employer, but each employer must file H-1B petition and the petition must be approved
- Ability to attend school / college part-time or full-time without needing an F-1 visa, provided the H-1B is valid
- Ability to bring their spouses and children to the US by obtaining individual H-4 visas.
Immigration Executive Action 2014
In November 2014, President Obama announced executive actions to immigration reforms. Part of Obama’s executive action streamlines legal immigration by allowing thousands of H-1B workers to apply for Legal Permanent Status (LPR). Additionally, the spouses of H-1B workers would be able to apply for work permits if certain conditions are met.
We will continue to update our readers on Obama’s executive action as it unfolds.
TransLegal is available corporations and individuals navigate the intricacies of the US immigration system. Call us with your questions.