The H-1B visa enables employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. A specialty occupation is one that requires the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and the attainment of at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent.
As an H-1B nonimmigrant, you may be admitted for a period of up to three years. Your time period may be extended, but generally cannot go beyond a total of six years, though some exceptions do apply under sections 104(c) and 106(a) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21). The time an H-1B visa holder spends outside the U.S. does not count against the six-year limit, as foreign workers are permitted to recapture time spent abroad while their H-1B status is valid.
The H-1B visa has an annual numerical limit "cap" of 65,000 visas each fiscal year. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a U.S. master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap. Additionally, H-1B workers who are petitioned for or employed at an institution of higher education or its affiliated or related nonprofit entities or a nonprofit research organization, or a government research organization are not subject to this numerical cap.
On 1/31/2019, USCIS published the final rule revising the H-1B cap procedures. The final rule will reverse the order by which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B regular cap and the advanced degree exemption, and it introduces an electronic registration requirement for petitioners seeking to file H-1B cap-subject petitions.
Effective 04/01/ 2019, USCIS will first select H-1B petitions (or registrations, once the registration requirement is implemented) submitted on behalf of all beneficiaries, including those that may be eligible for the advanced degree exemption. USCIS will then select from the remaining eligible petitions, a number projected to reach the advanced degree exemption. Changing the order in which USCIS counts these allocations will likely increase the number of petitions for beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a U.S. institution of higher education to be selected under the H-1B numerical allocations.
The job must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a specialty occupation:
For you to qualify to accept a job offer in a specialty occupation you must meet one of the following criteria: