Many of the professionals planning to work in US need H1B visa. Due to the high demand for H1B, we continue to have H1B lottery for the last 7 years. You can check H1B Cap reach Dates History from 2000 to 2020 to get an idea of the demand. If you are a newbie trying to understand and plan for the H1B visa, it can be very confusing and you may get lost. Also, from H1B FY 2021 season, the process has changed slightly and we have H1B registration process as well. This article covers step by step process on how to apply for H1B visa with USCIS and help you understand the process for better planning.
Firstly, you need to understand, there are two things you need to work in America.
- First one: Need H1B Visa approval from USCIS.
- Second one : You take the H1B Visa approval from USCIS and then apply for US Visa at a US Consulate.
The below process covers the first part of getting H1B approval from USCIS as it is your first step in the H1B Visa Journey.
How to Apply for H1B visa with USCIS – Process, Steps
One key thing to note is that to work on H1B Visa, a company or employer need to sponsor you H1B Visa. You cannot apply for H1B Visa yourself. So, your main task is to find that employer, who can sponsor you H1B Visa. If I were to summarize the process in three simple steps, here are those.
- Search for H1B Sponsors or Employer that meet your criteria.
- Apply for jobs at these companies that can sponsor you work visa.
- Work with employer and have your H1B petition filed.
Our first task is to find the H1B Sponsoring Companies.
How to find H1B Sponsoring Companies List?
The information on who has sponsored H1B Visas in the past is available in the form of Disclosure Data from USCIS and Department of Labor. You can use our H1B Sponsors Database or H1BGrader.com to find such companies. You can search by City, Zip code or Job title and create the list of companies based on your interest. You can read article How to find H1B Visa Sponsors. for more detailed instructions. Also, if you know someone who can help you with references, that would be ideal.
Now that you know the list of companies, your job is to find jobs that fit your profile.
Applying for Jobs – Get offer letters, Start Conversations
- Once you have the list, your goal is to apply jobs at these H1B Sponsoring companies. I do not know, how much of it would work, if you are outside of the US, but the idea is to apply jobs and get interview calls.
- If you are a student already in US and doing a co-op or internship at a company, you should initiate the H1B process at the company. If you realize that the current company does not offer that option, time to make a decision and switch soon.
Your primary goal is to get as many interviews and clear them to go to offer letter stage.
Salary Negotiations, Verifying H1B Sponsors, Job Search.
Once you are at offer letter stage, you should be getting close to decision on what company you should be going for.
- Try to negotiate the best offer you can get at a company. It is all pretty transparent. You can see the details of a job on how much it pays in the H1B Sponsors Database or Glassdoor.com
- You should also verify the companies’ credentials like how many were approved, denied at least from LCA perspective. You can use our H1B sponsors database or any other third party site. Do NOT pay for the information. It is free as per public disclosure and some websites charge money for that…that’s why we have build the H1B sponsors database to help you avoid paying for such sites.
- You should also try and talk to few people who are part of a company that you plan to join so that you get idea on the reality.
Read the articles :
Decision Time of Company / H1B Sponsor
You need to finalize the company that you would take the offer from and go ahead with them for H1B Sponsorship. You need to look at things like Green Card Sponsorship while you make the decision, if you plan to stay in US for longer time. If you can make a decision early the better, so that you can work with attorney and file it beforehand. You can look at the Green Cards data that they sponsored as well to make that decision.
Once you are done with the final decision and get offer letter, now is the time to secure documents for H1B petition filing. Before we go to filing, you need to be aware of important changes from Fiscal Year 2021 for H1B filing…
Change in H1B Visa Process from 2020 – Registration Process
For many years, until 2019, USCIS used to start accepting full H1B applications from April 1st. Depending on the year, if it falls on Sunday, it can be either April 2nd or 3rd. But, now from year 2020, USCIS is implementing the H1B Registration Rule and there are two steps in the process.
- Employers Submitting Registrations for H1B Lottery
- Employer Submitting Actual H1B Application with USCIS.
As per new H1B Registration Process, USCIS starts accepting registrations from March 1st, to March 20th. For H1B Registrations, you do not need to submit a lot of documents. The employer only need the below details of employee
- Legal Name (First, Middle and Last name)
- Date of Birth
- Country of Birth
- Country of Citizenship
- Passport Number
If your H1B Registration is selected, then your employer would know it and they will ask for additional documents for filing the full H1B application with USCIS.
Get your Documents for H1B Petition Filing :
If you get selected in H1B registration, you need to secure and get all the documents you would require for the filing of complete H1B petition. You would need information like education transcripts, degree certificates, documents for job experience like experience letters, etc. For full list, read article H1B Visa Petition Filing Checklist.
Send Documents to Employer / Attorney :
Depending on your employer, you may need to send documents directly to employer or the attorney that they work with. Work with your employer and send the documents to the attorney that they are working with…Usually, all the scan copies would be sufficient, no need to send any originals. Read article on What NOT to give to H1B Employer to file petition.
Once you send the documents off, your job is technically done. Your job is to check with attorney and ensure that they have all the relevant documents for filing. Below is what happens after you send off the documents to Attorney or Employer.
Filing LCA for H1B Visa:
Before the employer can file the H1B petition with USCIS, there needs to be an LCA filed for the position you got job, your attorney/ employer’s legal team will file the Labor Condition Application (LCA) with US Department of Labor (DOL). This can take a week or so for processing. Read What is H1B LCA ? Salary Info, Why File ?
Filing of Complete H1B Petition with USCIS :
Once the LCA is approved, your attorney or employer will prepare the H1B package with all the required forms, supporting documentation and submit the complete H1B Petition with USCIS. Employers get 90 days from April 1st to file their H1B petition.
Waiting for H1B Petition Decision from USCIS
Once the H1B petition is sent, your waiting starts. If your H1B was filed as Premium Processing, you will get the decision in 15 days, if not it can take time. Sometimes, USCIS will suspend premium processing as well for the first few months. So, this all depends. You need to check with your employer on how it was filed like Premium or regular. You can read H1B Premium Vs Regular Processing time. You need to follow up with your employer or attorney to get the status on your petition. Usually, they will give you a receipt notice which has a number and you can track your H1B status online on USCIS website. Read How to Check H1B Status online on USCIS.gov
If your petition is approved, your employer would get the approval notice and they would share it with you. That’s it. You can read Steps after H1B Visa Petition Approval , on the next steps.
What has been your experience filing H1B ? Share your thoughts in comments…