The most common work visa that professional workers need is the H-1B visa. The H-1B program allows an employer to temporarily employ a foreign worker in the U.S. on a Non-Immigrant basis in a specialty occupation or as a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability. The H-1B program requires a sponsoring employer; an individual cannot gain H-1B status on his/her own. A specialty occupation generally requires a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in the intended field of employment (e.g., sciences, medicine and healthcare, education, biotechnology, and business specialties, etc.). Current laws limit the number of foreign workers who may be issued an H-1B visa or otherwise be provided H-1B status to 65,000 annually. An exemption from the H-1B cap is available for 20,000 petitions filed for foreign workers who have obtained a U.S. master’s degree or higher (commonly known as the “advanced degree exemption”). Institutions of higher learning and their affiliated nonprofit organizations are exempt from the numerical limitation.
A foreign worker can be in H-1B status for a maximum continuous period of six years. H-1B Non-Immigrant status is generally issued in three year increments. At the end of six years, the foreign worker must remain outside the U.S. for one year before another H-1B petition can be approved. Certain foreign workers with labor certification applications or immigrant visa petitions in process for extended periods may remain in H-1B status in one-year increments beyond the normal six-year limitation. For more information on extended stay possibilities, please contact our office today.