The H-1B visa is for workers who are employed in a “specialty occupation” by a U.S. employer. Eligible applicants need to have a bachelor’s degree or professional experience, which is equivalent to the degree. The visa is issued to engineers, accountants, scientists, architects, teachers, professors, management consultants, market research analysts, physical therapists, and fashion models with “distinguished merit and ability.” The annual cap of the H-1B visa is 65,000. However, it is further reduced by the numbers available for the H1B1 visa for nationals of Chile and Singapore. Specifically, 1,400 H1B1 visa numbers are available for Chileans, while 5,400 are set aside for Singaporean nationals.
Despite the relatively low numbers, this H-1B1 category has not been used to its full potential so far, unlike the remaining 58,200 quota for the regular H-1B’s, which has been reached in each of the last three years.
The new fee for H-1B petitioners, who employ more than 25 full-time employees, is $1,500.00, while petitioners with 25 or fewer employees must pay a fee of $750.00. In addition, the base-processing fee of $320.00 must be paid and the premium processing fee of $1,000.00, if applicable.
However, certain types of H-1B petitions that were fee exempted (i.e., non-profit organizations affiliated with higher education; governmental research organizations; second or subsequent request for an extension of stay) will remain exempted from the new fee of $1,500.00 or $750.00.
On December 8, 2004, the FY05 Omnibus Appropriations Act was implemented. The Act creates a new Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee of $500.00, which must be paid by petitioners seeking the beneficiary’s initial grant of H-1B non-immigrant classification or a change of the beneficiary’s employer. The only petitions exempted from paying these fees are those that seek to amend or extend the stay of the beneficiary. This new $500.00 fee applies to petitions filed with the USCIS on or after March 8, 2005.
Authorized Period of Stay under the H-1B Nonimmigrant Status
The H-1B visa is issued initially for up to three (3) years and may be extended for up to six years. It allows for “dual intent of residency,” which permits applicants to seek permanent residency status (“Green Card”) while under non-immigrant status and waives the requirement of maintaining a foreign residence during their stay in the United States.
Dependents of H-1B Visa Holders
Spouses and minor children (unmarried under 21 years old) of H-1B visa holders are granted the H-4 status, which will allow them to stay in the U.S. with the principal H-1B holder. Certain H-4 nonimmigrant spouses are eligible to apply for the Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which will allow them to work for any company or even start their own business. The H-4 EAD validity period starts on the date the I-765 is adjudicated until the expiration of the H-4 status.