H1B Visa Basics - Requirements - Cap Count - Processing - Stamping - RFE

We have a lot of information on the blog on H1B Visa. For someone new to the process, it can be overwhelming. This page gives a summary of all the basics of H1B visa like requirements, when to file, what is H1B cap, lottery, etc and point to detail articles on the same in plain english without too much of legal and immigration jargon. Below is quick index of what is on this page. We will update this page with most current information.

  • What is H1B Visa ?
  • Requirements for H1B Visa ?
  • Who can sponsor H1B Visa ?
  • Who is Employer / H1B Sponsor ?
  • What is LCA in H1B Context ?
  • What is H1B Visa Cap ?
  • Various quotas for H1B Visa ?
  • What is H1B Visa filing fee ?
  • Who pays for H1B filing ?
  • When can you file H1B visa ?
  • How long does USCIS Accept H1Bs ?
  • When to plan for filing H1B Visa ?
  • How to find H1B Sponsors ?
  • What is H1B Visa lottery ?
  • Steps after filing H1B Visa  ?
  • How to check status of H1B visa ?
  • Processing time for H1B Visa ?
  • What is an H1B RFE ?
  • How to expedite H1B processing ?
  • When can you go for H1B stamping ?
  • When to enter US after H1B stamping ?
  • When can you start to work on H1B ?
  • What is H1B Visa Transfer ?

What is H1B Visa ? 

H1B Visa is a temporary work visa given by US to internationals with specialized skills to work and live in America. There are many other work visa types, but this is one of the most popular one used by many international companies, students studying in US and international professionals to work in US.  You can read article on details on Why H1B is Unique, other Basics

Requirements for H1B Visa ?

As H1B Visa caters to specialized skills category, you need to have a minimum bachelors degree and the job that is offered to you falls under specialized skills category. You degree has to be awarded from an accredited school. Also, if your bachelor’s degree is awarded from outside of US university, it has to be on par or equivalent to US Bachelors. Also, if the job requires that you need license to practice something, you need to have that too. In some cases, if there is no bachelors, but the candidate has a lot of experience,  each year of education can be equated with 3 years of experience. You can read all the official H1B Requirements at USCIS website 

Who can sponsor H1B Visa ?

H1B can be sponsored by a company that is in US or a multinational company that has operations and office in US. You cannot sponsor H1B visa by yourself. Also, your family living in US cannot sponsor you H1B visa.

Who is Employer / H1B Sponsor ? 

An employer or H1B Sponsor is the company that is sponsoring your H1B visa. They are the company that gave you the job offer and they are the one who is filing H1B visa on your behalf to get authorization for you to work for them in US.

Can any company in US sponsor H1B visa ?

Technically any company with an office in the America can sponsor H1B visa. It can be a company with few people to hundreds of thousands of people.  There are some requirements by the USCIS laid out so that the company filing your visa has the ability to pay you and afford you as it is their responsibility to make sure you are paid in US as per US department of Labor, which is governed by something called LCA, more details below.

What is LCA in H1B Context ?

LCA stands for Labor Condition Application. It is a mandatory document that the H1B Sponsor / employer needs to file with US Department of Labor before they file the H1B petition with USCIS for any non-immigrant worker. It has details like wage, location, etc. For full details, you can read article  Why LCA required, Salaries, Forms filed, Processing Time 

What is H1B Visa Cap ? Various quotas for H1B Visa ?

H1B Cap is nothing but the term used to indicate the total limit of H1B visas set by congress for this visa category per year. It has three categories called as regular quota, masters quota and singapore-chile quota. As of FY 2018, the H1B caps are listed as below.

  • Regular Cap: This is loosely referred as general quota/cap or regular quota or non-advanced degree quota/cap. The annual cap is set as 65,000.
  • Advanced Degree Cap: This is loosely referred as Masters’ quota/cap, US Masters degree cap, etc.  The annual cap is set as 20,000.
  • Chile-Singapore Cap: This is the number set aside for applicants from Singapore and Chile. Annual cap is 6,800 and the number is taken out from Regular Cap

You can read complete details on H1B Cap – How is it calculated ? Regulations ?

What is H1B Visa filing fee ?

To file H1B visa petition for an employee, the sponsor / company incurs various kinds of costs, ranging from filing fee to USCIS for the application and fee for the attorney. Depending on the size of the company, the H1B filing fee can vary anywhere from $1,600 USD to $7,400 USD + the Attorney fee( if any). You can read full details on H1B Filing Fee Details – Who pays for What ?

Who pays for H1B filing ? 

It is the employer/ sponsoring company’s responsibility to pay for all the expenses to file H1B visa petition with USCIS. It is illegal to pay money to a H1B sponsoring company to file H1B.

When can you file H1B visa ?

Historically, April 1st is when you can file H1B for next fiscal year quota. In general, you can only file for H1B visa 6 months before the start date of your actual work. As USCIS fiscal year is from October 1 to September 30th of next year, 6 months before the Oct 1st is April 1st.

How long does USCIS Accept H1B Visa Applications ?

USCIS accepts H1B visa applications until the quota is complete for that year. It can be anywhere from 5 days to few months, depending on the demand. You can check out H1B Cap Reach Dates from FY 2000 to 2018

What is H1B Visa lottery ?

H1B Lottery or H1B random selection is a process that  is used by USCIS to pick the respective quota limit petitions, when more H1B applications are received by USCIS in the first 5 days. As per regulation, USCIS is mandated to accept application for 5 days, even if they receive more petitions on first day.  Read complete details on H1B Visa Lottery Process -How does it work 

When to plan for filing H1B Visa ?

Planning early is always better for H1B visa as there has been significant demand and to avoid last minute issues. If you start planning from early December or January 1st, it should be good. But, always having a job offer is good to have. You can check out Sample H1B Plan with Activities by Month 

How to find H1B Sponsors ?

Finding H1B Sponsor is probably one of the most asked questions. There are many ways, one of the simplest is to find a company that has done H1B sponsorship in the past and get a job at them so that they can file H1B petition for you. There are other options like doing an internship in such company and then asking them to sponsor. Other options is to work in Multinational company in home country and ask them to sponsor H1B visa. We have a H1B Sponsors Database for your convenience. For complete details, read How to find H1B Sponsors – Options, H1B Database

Various Steps after filing H1B Visa  ?

Once you file H1B Visa, your employer/ sponsor will be informed about your H1B petition. They will get something called a H1B Case Receipt Number, if your application was selected by USCIS for further processing.  If there was lottery and your petition was not selected you will get a H1B Visa Reject Notice. Your job is to make sure you are in constant touch with your employer and get the status of the petition. Usually, there will be an immigration attorney who will work with your employer and they should be your point of contact, if your employer allows you interact directly.

How to check status of H1B visa  ? Case Number ?

If you are selected, you will get a H1B Case Number your employer that was sent by USCIS, It is a 13 character number. To understand more, read What is USCIS H1B Case Number ?  You can track your case status online on USCIS website. You can even setup alerts. You can check at  USCIS.gov Case Status

What are various H1B Statuses – What do they mean ?

Once a H1B application is selected by USCIS, they process it in steps. There are various case statuses like “Case Was Received”, “Case Was Approved”, etc. that USCIS gives for each of the H1B petitions that they are processing. To know full details of each of the case statuses read H1B Visa Case Statuses Meaning – Flow 

Processing time for H1B Visa ? Regular vs Premium Process ?

H1B Visa application with USCIS can be filed under two categories either regular or premium processing. If you file in regular processing, there is no SLA from USCIS. They can process it anywhere from few weeks to 6 months or more. But, if you file your petition under premium processing, USCIS is mandated to give a response within 15 calendar days. Of course, you have file extra fee for the same. You can read complete details at H1B Processing Times – Regular vs Premium- What to do ?  

What is an H1B RFE ? Is it Common ?

While your H1B petition is being adjudicated / processed by USCIS, the officer who is handling your case, may not have all the details to make a decision on your petition. In such cases, they can issue something called “Request for Evidence” (short form – RFE) and your employer has to submit details. It can be anything from documents of your education, client letters, etc. For more details, you can read article H1B RFE Common Reasons

How to expedite H1B processing ? Long wait ? 

If you have filed your petition under regular processing and you are not getting any response from USCIS due to their workload, you can always upgrade your petition to premium processing by paying the respective fee. Once you upgrade your petition, you will get a response / decision from USCIS within 15 calendar days.

When can you go for H1B stamping after Approval ?

If your H1B petition is approved, you will need H1B Visa stamp on your passport to enter USA. You need to apply at local US embassy/ Consulate in your  country of residence for H1B visa stamping. You can apply for H1B visa stamping at embassy within 90 days before the start date on your H1B approval notice. More details When to apply for H1B Stamping after approval ?

When to enter US after H1B stamping ?

Once you have your H1B stamping done, you can only enter US within 10 days from the start date listed on your approval notice. You will not be allowed to enter, if you try to enter earlier than that on H1B visa.

When can you start to work on H1B ? Delayed entry to US ?

Technically, you can start work on H1B visa after you enter US on H1B visa. It is usually the start date listed on your H1B approval notice. Some times, you may delay your entry to US due to various reasons from you or employer. You can start to work in US anytime that is on or after the start date on your approval notice.

What is Port of Entry ?  Process for H1B Visa Holders ?

Port of entry is the first place either airport / border checkpoint or sea port, where you would enter US on visa. You will be interviewed by CBP officer at this place and they may ask you questions and let you inside. If all is good, they will scan your passport and will stamp on your passport with with the entry date.  They have right to reject and send you back to your home country, if they sense something is wrong or fraudulent. You need to be prepared and carry all documents and info. Read Port of Entry Documents Checklist for H1B Holders.

What is H1B Visa Transfer ? Change Employers ?

H1B Visa Transfer is a process where you use your existing H1B petition details to transfer your work visa to a new employer. Technically, there is no transferring, it is common term used…your new employer will file a fresh / New H1B petition, but the trick is that, you will not have to go through lottery again and they will use the old H1B petition number to consider that you have been counted towards H1B cap.  Read more at H1B Transfer Options to change employers- in US, from Outside US

Do you have any other questions ? Feel free to ask in QA Section or as comment

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