The USA H1-B visa service allows an employer in the United States to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations for a period of up to six years.
A US H1-B visa application functions much like a UK work permit application, in that the process is employer led and begins with an offer of employment from a United States based company. Unlike the UK, where the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme or HSMP allows a candidate to relocate in order to seek employment; when immigrating to the United States, in almost all cases a pre-arranged job offer is essential.
Immigrating to the USA can be a complex and demanding procedure, there are currently more than sixty non-immigrant visas for America through which foreign nationals may migrate to the US. You can visit the USA for a short period on a B1 business visit visa or a B2 tourist visa, or for a longer duration through an H1-B visa or L1 visa.
The H1B visa for the USA is regarded as a non-immigrant visa and as such is not intended as a route to settled status in the USA. In most cases, an H1B application can be processed more quickly than an application for lawful permanent residence in the USA, or a US Green Card as it more commonly known. Due to the quicker processing time, the American H1B visa tends to be the preferred option for employers looking to recruit those wishing to immigrate to the USA. H1B visas for immigration to the United States are granted for three years with two options to extend this period. However, although not intended as a route to permanent residency, applicants may apply for a USA Green Card whilst in the country on an H1B visa, so that the lengthy application process can be undertaken whilst already living and working in the USA.
American H1B visas for skilled workers wishing to migrate to the United States of America are initially granted for a period of three years. Immigration visas for the US of this type may be extended twice, on the first occasion for two years and on the second occasion for a further period of one year. As discussed, candidates may apply for permanent residency in the USA whilst in the country on an H1-B work visa. However, if this process has not been undertaken by the end of a fully extended H1B working visa, candidates must return to their home country and will not be eligible to return to the country on a US H visa, or US L visa for another year.
Much like UK work permits, H1-B visas for the US, depend upon an employer petitioning on behalf of a candidate, and candidates cannot initiate the process of application themselves. Applications for USA visas of this class depend on a guaranteed offer of permanent full time employment from a US based employer. However, the candidate in question must also satisfy a range of criteria.
The US H1B visa class is aimed at potential employees who will be immigrating to the USA in order to undertake employment in a “speciality occupation”, i.e. a job that requires a significant deal of specialist knowledge and skills. As a result, candidates are expected to have either:
The equivalent of a 4-year US Bachelor’s degree, relevant to the
field in which employment is being offered.
A three-year degree and three years of relevant work experience.
In some cases, non-graduates may be considered based on “graduate
equivalent” status if they have twelve or more years of directly relevant work
Professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and accountants must be
licensed to practice in the state in which employment is offered. This may
involve passing a relevant state professional examination.
As an employer led process, applying a for a USA H1B visa also stipulates that companies wishing to bring foreign nationals to the United States through this system should meet certain requirements. In America, visa applications of this kind from a company whose work force already includes successful H1B visa applicants, may require a position to be advertised in the United States before the process of petitioning for a foreign national can begin. In companies where H1-B American visa workers make up 15% or more of the workforce, this will be required.
Once a successful USA visa application is made and a skilled worker is in place, the company will be responsible for any costs incurred by the employee, should the position terminate prematurely. This requirement does not stand in the case of resignation, however, if a candidate is dismissed before the proposed duration of the position, reasonable costs for the candidate moving back to their last place of foreign residency must be covered by the employer.
Whilst the H1-B US visa service is aimed at those wishing to migrate to the US in order to participate in a speciality occupation, an H2-B visa application can be made for applicants who do not possess the necessary skills, qualifications or experience to apply under the H1-B category. Applications for US visas under this route require an extensive Labour Certification process involving advertising of the position in the domestic market and providing evidence that the role could not be filled with a USA worker. This process must be undertaken each time a US H2-B visa is extended for one year, from its initial grant of 3 years.
In America, immigration through H1 visas is not directly intended as a permanent route for immigration to the USA. However, it may lead to a Green Card visa application and even if a candidate returns home at the expiry of an H1 visa, it is likely that they will have been living and working in the USA for a period of some years. As a result, spouse immigration and dependent immigration are permissible under this route and the spouse, partner or dependent children of an applicant may join them in the United States. Dependents immigrating to America will be granted a USA H-4 visa in order to join their H1B partner in the country. H-4 America visas do not allow their holders to work in America, and as a result, a spouse or dependent will not be permitted to seek or undertake employment without applying in their own capacity for a USA work visa. USA H4 visas do however permit holders to study in the USA.