Green Card Experts
Search Login Menu

H-1B visa for the USA

Every year in spring, the annual application period for the H-1B Visa Lottery takes place, offering highly skilled professionals a great opportunity to obtain a work visa to the United States. Learn everything you need to know about the H-1B visa – from the requirements to the application process.

What is the H-1B visa?

H-1B is a US work visa specifically for highly skilled laborers (Specialty Occupation Workers) from abroad. It was established as part of the Immigration Act of 1990 by the George H. W. Bush administration. The H-1B program aims to bring skilled workers to America from occupational fields where there is a shortage in the domestic labor market.

As a classic work visa, the H-1B falls into the category of non-immigrant visas and is tied to a job in the USA. H-1B visas are also temporary for an initial period of three years. The visa can be extended once for another three years.

Who can apply for an H-1B visa?

H-1B visas are subject to strict admission criteria. They are only granted to employees with a university degree or many years of work experience. Applicants for H-1B visas must have at least a US Bachelor's Degree or its equivalent.

Because the US government wants to use H-1B visas to fill gaps in the domestic labor market, the permits are granted for jobs in industries where there is a shortage in the United States. They are grouped under the term "Specialty Occupations" and primarily cover the following professions:

  • Lawyers
  • Architects
  • Teachers
  • Engineers
  • IT specialists
  • Scientists
  • Doctors and medical staff

It is possible that occupations may also be classified as H-1B eligible that are not traditional Specialty Occupations. US agency regulations allow for specialized professionals from a variety of fields. In reality, however, it is primarily technical occupations that are granted approval. In 2021, for example, software developers received about 38 % of the H-1B visas issued.

Occupations of H-1B visa holders 2021

H-1B Visa Lottery

H-1B visas are limited in number and are subject to a quota system (H-1B Cap). In each US fiscal year, a total of 85,000 H-1B visas are issued. Of these, 20,000 of the visas are reserved for applicants with a US Master's Degree or higher (Master's Exemption). 65,000 visas go to applicants with a Bachelor's degree or its equivalent (Regular Cap).

Usually, the number of applicants is always significantly higher than the H-1B visas to be issued. Therefore, the US authorities conduct a lottery for the limited 85,000 H-1B visas every year. Similar to the Green Card Lottery, the winners of the H-1B Visa Lottery are drawn at random from all submitted and qualified applications.

In 2021, applicant numbers were at a 15-year high. A total of more than 275,000 H-1B visa petitions were recorded. Accordingly, the chance of being drawn in the H-1B visa lottery was about 30 %.

H-1B visa applicant numbers chart

Steps to the H-1B visa

Do you have the necessary qualifications and want to work in the US on an H-1B visa? Then you basically have to go through these steps:

  1. Finding an employer in the USA (sponsor)
  2. H-1B visa registration by the sponsor
  3. Positive response in the H-1B Visa Lottery
  4. Filing of Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor by the sponsor
  5. Filing of Form I-129 with USCIS and payment of all applicable fees by the sponsor
  6. Attending an appointment at the US Embassy or US Consulate in your home country
Take your chance to win a Green Card! Apply now

H-1B sponsors in the USA

The most important step for graduates who wish to enter the US through the H-1B visa is to find a suitable employer. The H-1B application process, as well as the payment of the necessary fees, are taken care of by the US employers.

Because H-1B visas create a relatively large amount of work and high costs for the sponsor, only about 10 % of American employers are willing to go through the process. Therefore, it is best to focus your job search more on employers that typically sponsor H-1B visas. The top three sponsors in 2021 were Google, Amazon, and Indian IT services provider Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

H-1B application process

A huge advantage for employees is that they have little bureaucratic effort and expense with the H-1B visa itself. Once you have found a sponsor and signed the employment contract, the potential US employer takes care of the application process and handles the registration for the H-1B visa lottery.

In the event of a positive response, your future employer will first initiate a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). If this is approved, they will then file Form I-129 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As an employee, all you have to do until then is provide all the necessary information and documents.

Only after the USCIS has completed its review of your application will you need to take action yourself by attending an interview appointment at the US Embassy or Consulate in your home country. If the officials at the consulate approve your application, you will receive the H-1B work visa for the USA.

H-1B visa: dates and deadlines 2022

The entire H-1B visa process takes a few months. H-1B Visa Lottery 2022 applicants can expect the following deadlines and dates:

  • March 1st to 18th, 2022: registration for the H-1B Visa Lottery
  • End of March 2022: drawing of the winners
  • Following 90 days: submission of H-1B visa petitions by employers
  • October 1st, 2022: earliest possible starting date of employment

FAQ: H-1B visa

Do you need more information about the H-1B visa? In our FAQ, we have compiled the answers to the most frequently asked questions:

What will be accepted as an equivalent to a college degree for the H-1B?

The US Bachelor's Degree involves four years of higher education at an American college. Applicants who have not studied in the USA can have their foreign degrees recognized. To do so, contact approved evaluation services such as the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) or the Association of International Credentials Evaluators (AICE).

Under certain circumstances, many years of specialized work experience may be acknowledged in place of a university degree. The rule of thumb for this is that three years of work experience must be proven for each missing year of study.

What is a Labour Condition Application?

The Labor Condition Application, or LCA, is submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The company submitting the application must provide evidence of the prospective foreign employee's pay and working conditions. These must meet prevailing standards for the particular skill and region. The LCA also ensures that there are no disadvantages for US workers with comparable qualifications.

Do family members of H-1B visa holders also receive visas?

Yes, spouses and unmarried children under 21 of H-1B visa holders may apply for a derived H-4 visa. It is valid for the same duration as the H-1B visa. The spouse and children are allowed to attend school or study in the US, but not to work.

What happens to my H-1B visa if I lose my job?

The H-1B visa is tied to an existing employment contract. In case of termination, the residence permit for the USA also ends, and the holder of the H-1B visa must leave the country within a grace period of 60 days.

Am I allowed to change employers on the H-1B visa?

Yes, H-1B visa holders can change their employer while in America. This process is known as an H-1B transfer. To do so, you will first need a new job offer. Then, you can apply for H-1B transfer status. You do not have to participate in the H-1B Visa Lottery again. There is no limited number of participants for the H-1B transfer process, but the process can take several months.

My H-1B visa is expiring – how can I stay in the USA?

If the validity period of your H-1B visa is coming to an end and no extension is possible, but you want to stay in the US, you can apply for the Green Card. To do so, you must file Form I-485 to adjust your status with USCIS.

What are the alternatives to the H-1B visa?

Besides the H-1B visa, there are several other categories for work visas in the US that you can apply for, depending on your qualifications and skills. If you have enough assets, you can also enter the USA as an investor.

H-1B Visa Lottery vs. Green Card Lottery

The H-1B Visa Lottery is an excellent opportunity for highly skilled workers to come to America for several years. However, even better opportunities are available through the Green Card Lottery, in which the US authorities distribute 55,000 Permanent Resident Cards for the United States each year to applicants from all over the world.

The Green Card Lottery only has very few requirements for participation. For example, applicants only need a high school diploma or a certain amount of work experience. In addition, Green Card holders benefit from an unlimited residence in the USA and the freedom to choose their employer. Self-employment or studies can also be taken up with the Green Card.

Taking part in the Green Card Lottery is always worthwhile, even if you are simultaneously seeking an H-1B visa. Register now for the next Green Card Lottery – it only takes a few clicks, and you are in the lottery pot!

Green Card Check
Apply now
Sign up for the newsletter & enjoy benefits!
Get a 5€ voucher for the Green Card Lottery!

I would like to receive The American Dream newsletter. I have read the privacy policy.