The H-1B is a temporary (nonimmigrant) visa category that allows employers to petition for highly educated foreign professionals to work in specialty occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. Jobs in fields such as mathematics, engineering, and technology often qualify. Typically, the initial duration of an H-1B visa classification is three years, which may be extended for a maximum of six years.
Before the employer can file a petition with USCIS, the employer must take steps to ensure that hiring the foreign worker will not harm U.S. workers.
- Employers first must attest, on a labor condition application (LCA) certified by the Department of Labor (DOL), that employment of the H-1B worker will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
- Employers must also provide existing workers with notice of their intention to hire an H-1B worker.
Since the category was created in 1990, Congress has limited the number of H-1Bs made available each year. The current annual statutory cap is 65,000 visas, with 20,000 additional visas for foreign professionals who graduate with a masters degree or doctorate from a U.S. institution of higher learning (Figure 1). In recent years, the limit has been reached only a few days after the petition submission period began.