Last updated Nov. 2015
The H-1B nonimmigrant visa allows temporary employment of foreign workers in specialty occupations. These jobs require “theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, along with at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in the specialization.” As with some of the other temporary worker programs, the employer must petition the government for permission to hire H-1B workers. The employer begins the process by filing a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) that details the job type, length, location and salary. The salary must be the greater of either the actual wage paid to similarly situated U.S. workers or the prevailing wage determined by USDOL’s surveys of the industry. In most instances, employers do not have to make any effort to recruit U.S. workers. However, employers whose workforce is predominantly made up of H-1B workers and employers who have willfully violated H-1B program rules in the past are each required to attest that recruitment has occurred and that U.S. workers have not been displaced. After receiving the approved LCA, the employer files a petition for the H-1B worker with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). After the H-1B petition is approved, the foreign individual applies for his or her H-1B visa from the U.S. Department of State’s visa processing post abroad, which is usually the U.S. Consulate or Embassy. Once the visa is issued, the individual seeks entry at the U.S. border or port of entry from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Patrol. Once admitted, the H-1B worker is allowed to work only for the employer who obtained USDOL and USCIS approval. There is an annual cap of 65,000 for H-1B workers, with 20,000 additional visas set aside for workers who have graduate degrees from U.S. institutions. Most H-1B jobs are in computer-related occupations and most H-1B workers come from India.