Working in the USA
The most common workers visa in the US is the H1-B visa type. This is called a "non-immigrant visa" because it's a temporary visa which allows you to stay in the US employed legally by a US company for up to six years.
There is a certain limited number of such visas issued each year by the U.S. Government. The numbers are varying year by year. A few year ago this limit (also called "cap") was about 100,000 visas per year. A few years ago US officials realized the US is lacking highly skilled specialty professionals and raised the cap, almost doubling it. These visas are issued only for certain fileds and occupations including Information Technology (computers), Engineering, Accounting, Finance, Medicine, Health, Architecture, Education, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Social Sciences, Law, Theology, Business Specialties, etc. The maximum period of admission is six (6) years and ten (10) years for certain cases such as working on Defense Department projects.
Another limitation of the H-1B is that includes only occupations which requires a higher degree education, typically a 4 year Bachelor’s Degree (or its equivalent) or higher. However, if you have less than bachelor's degree your work experience can COMPENSATE for your education. Each three (3) years of work experience can be counted as the equivalent of one (1) year of education.
This yearly quota of 195,000 visas does not apply to foreign workers seeking employment at a) institutions of higher education (e.g. Universities), b) nonprofit organizations, and c) government research organizations. Meaning that these three types of employers do not have to comply to the limitation and have the freedom to hire indiscriminately without any restrictions.
This visa type is special and valuable because it permits "dual status" to its holder. This means while you are in the US on a temporary basis, working and making money legally you can file your papers to obtain the permanent residency (green card) and then US citizenship.
The H-1B approval is employer-specific, which means you can work only at the employer who sponsored you for the visa. A change of employer requires a new H-1B petition. However note, that you can work in two places with two different approved H1-B visas.
If you don't have a high degree and want to work in the US you might qualify for a H2 visa which doesn't require a higher degree. I suggest you to make some research of your own, or contact and consult with an immigration attorney. He/she can advise you other ways to obtain a worker's visa, based on your personal education, employment history, qualifications etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
Important: Please note, that these questions and answers on this page are for informative purpuses only. Immigration law changes very frequently. Do not take the information here as legal advice. Do you homework so you have the most up to date information. The internet offers a wealth of information for your research.
1. How many applicants will be chosen?
Over 195,000 Visas will be available for a fiscal year. The fiscal year starts on October 1 each year and ends on September 30 the following year.
2. Do I qualify to obtain an H-1B Visa?
You qualify to obtain an H-1B Visa if you have a minimum of a bachelor's degree. However, if you have less than bachelor's degree your work experience can COMPENSATE for your education. Each three (3) years of work experience can be counted as the equivalent of one (1) year of education.
3. Once I am hired, how do my spouse and children obtain their visas?
They will be granted dependent visas once you have been hired and approved for the H-1B visa. Your spouse and children will get H-4 type of visas.
4. Will there be any special fee for obtaining the H-1B Visa?
Yes. There is a fee for obtaining an H-1B Visa from the U.S. Government. The filing fee is approximately $1110, plus the attorney's fee. Attorney fees for a H1-B visa varies between $2500 - $6000. Some of the $1110 filing fees theoretically should be paid by the employer, but if your employer doesn't want you that badly be prepared to pay that fee yourself. This might be attractive enough for your employer in order to sponsor you for the H1-B process.
6. How does the Hiring and Visa process work?
The process is long and quite complicate. The preliminary process for most H1B applications would be to submit your educational credentials (all your diplomas, degrees) to a US Government authorized independent education evaluation agency for determining the equivalency of your degree to a US college Bachelor degree.
Then your papers are also submitted to the US Department of Labor, certifying that the salary your employer is willing to pay you will be equal to what an American employee would earn in the same position.
After these procedures, the employer then on your behalf makes a petition to the INS (Immigration & Naturalization Service). This is usually the longest step, because the INS has a huge, usually weeks or months worth backlog of unprocessed H1-B cases, and your case stays in line for processing.
Once approved your employer and the attorney's office will be notified, and a copy of the approved petition will be sent to your home country's Consulate where you will pick up the visa. The Consular office has total discretionary power to issue the entry Visa. Note that if at the time of submitting the INS Petiton you are already with a valid visa (e.g. tourist visa) in the US, you can stay in the US, wait for your petition approval and then change your status, without the need of going home.
7. How long the Visa process take?
The whole process usually takes 2-3 months or longer, depending on how much backlog the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) has, and how fast your immigration attorney is with the paperwork. My first personal case was very slow due to a high INS backlog and some initial mis-communication with my attorney. That's why it took about 5 months. My second H1-B visa, after gaining considerable experience in H1-B matters and how to make my case easy and productive for my attorney it took much less, about 2 months only.
8. Is is possible to pay my immigration attorney the fees in more than one payments?
Yes, this is how usually is done. This basically depends on your arrangement with your attorney. But be prepared to pay at least the $1110 filing fees for startup (or more) and then you pay the rest in 2-3 payments, based on your agreement with your attorney.
9. Is it necessary an attorney to run the show in order to get this H1-B visa?
Yes, it is. There are lots of papers to be filled out, not only from your side but by your employer as well which should be filled at more than one location. Trust me, you won't be able to run it by yourself. I went through 2 such visa cycles, I already have some experience but I wouldn't even think to start this myself.