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What you need to know about H-1B

If you have already decided that your career plan is to obtain an H-1B visa, there are a few things you should know first. This document will provide you with SOME BASIC information and a good plan for a future H-1B application. There is no guarantee that you will obtain an H-1B visa by following these suggestions. In fact, there are a very limited number of H-1B visas available each year and you should prepare for an alternative career path in case you do not find yourself in a situation where an H-1B is possible.

The Numbers

There are 85,000 H-1B visas awarded each year through the CAP system. There are about 900,000 international students studying in the United States this year. Not all applicants are students. NOTE: there are not enough H-1B visas for all candidates. In 2014 there were more than twice as many applicants as visas available.

About the H-1B Visa

H-1B is the most common work visa in the United States. Using this category, U.S. employers are permitted to hire international graduates who have at least a four-year college degree, if they will work in a position requiring their specific college degree.

Duration: An H-1B visa is valid initially for up to three years and can be extended an additional three years for a total of six years. There are also complicated rules for seeking extensions beyond six years for foreign nationals who have started the process of applying for lawful permanent residence.

Procedure: Only an employer can file an H-1B petition with USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Services or "CIS"). Employers usually file the H-1 B petition while the employee is working using OPT. Filing an H-1B petition does not obligate the employer to keep the employee fo r the entire duration requested (usually three years). The employer retains full authority to terminate the employment.

Costs: The cost of the H-1B consists of the legal fee (if an attorney is used, which is advisable), plus the CIS filing fee. The CIS filing fee is $2,325 for employers with more than 25 employees, and $1,575 for employers with 25 or fewer employees. These fees are regularly increased by Congress. The U.S. government considers all fees and costs for the H-1B process to be employer expenses.

H-1B Quota: CIS issues 85,000 new H- 1B approvals each fiscal year (October 1through September 30). Graduates with U.S. advanced degrees have special an allocation of 20,000 H-1Bs of this 85,000 quota. Exceptions to the quota are university jobs. Employers should file an H-18 petition by April1 for the October 1 quota. HOWEVER, to file byApril1, your employer needs to agree to sponsor you ideally several months before this date so that there is sufficient time to prepare you r application and file it by April1.