QUIZ: Could you get an H-1B or H-4 visa to live and work in the US?

(file) (KPRC via Pixabay)

HOUSTONLiving in limbo is a continued in-depth series by KPRC 2 that delves into the challenges faced by hundreds of thousands of Indian women in the United States who stand to lose work authorization if President Donald Trump’s administration changes one rule. This series was made possible by a fellowship grant from the South Asian Journalists Association’s SAJA Reporting Fellowship Program. Read the full series here.

Immigration law in the United States is shrouded in gray areas and navigating the paperwork and regulations can be challenging for the millions of immigrants in the U.S.

One visa, the H-1B visa, is a temporary, non-immigrant visa granted to highly-skilled people from other countries. The duration of an H-1B visa classification is typically three years but that can be extended to a maximum of six years.

There is an annual statutory cap of 65,000 H-1B visas granted each year with an additional 20,000 visas granted to those with a Master’s degree or a doctorate from an American university.

Here’s a basic quiz to determine whether you or your spouse could get an H-1B visa to live and work in the U.S.

It’s important to note that this quiz is a basic one and there may be numerous reasons for someone to be awarded or not awarded an H-1B visa. This quiz also excludes the H-1B visas that are granted to people who are working for the Department of Defense or work as fashion models.

Basic criteria for an H-1B applicant

  • A Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • Must be qualified in a specialty occupation including but not limited to biotechnology, chemistry, computing, architecture, engineering, statistics, physical sciences, journalism, medicine and health, economics, education, research, law, accounting, business, technical writing, theology, arts
  • Before the employer can file a petition to hire a foreign worker, they must attest on a labor condition application (LCA) that the employment of a foreign worker will not harm American workers.
  • The employer also has to notify existing workers that they intend to hire a foreign worker.
  • Before a petition can be made for an H-1B visa, the employer has to advertise the job to Americans first and invite people to apply for the job
  • The employer must pay for the H-1B visa petition and cannot try to get the money back from the foreign worker they hire

The employer is also subject to a possible audit of their hiring process by officials to ensure that fraud is not committed in the process. Yegani says many employers choose to forgo hiring a foreign worker as they “don’t want to deal with the hassle."

How much does an H-1B application cost?

Yegani provided KPRC 2 with a breakdown of the costs an employer will incur if they are looking to hire a highly-skilled immigrant.

  • Form I-129 is $460
  • If the employer has less than 25 employees, they have to pay a $750 American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act (ACWIA) fee
  • If the employer has more than 25 employees, they must pay a $1,500 ACWIA fee
  • If they have 50 or more employees they must pay $4,000 ACWIA fee
  • Additionally, there is a $500 fraud detection fee
  • If the applicant wants premium processing, the fee for that is $1,440 (Premium processing was temporarily halted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services due to the coronavirus pandemic)
  • Depending on the attorney who works the case, they will charge their hourly or flat rate fee

As a result, the cost for an employer to file a petition for a foreign worker can typically range from $5,000 to $7,000, Yegani said.

What about qualifying for the H-4 visa?

The H-4 visa is granted to the dependents of someone on an H-1B visa. This includes their spouse and children under the age of 21. The H-4 visa is more restricted and under that visa status, a person may study but not work.


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