H1B Visa Application Process - H1B Regular Processing
H1B visa applications can be filed by US employers one of 2 methods:
- H1B Regular Processing, or
- H1B Premium Processing
The difference is that H1B Premium Processing is a faster method to obtain an H1B visa. However, the US Government does charge an extra fee of $1,225 for Premium Processing (to expedite the application processing in as little as 15 days).
Regular Processing is a more cost-effective method but it takes longer. There is no set timeframe for a visa to be processed by the USCIS when filed through Regular Processing (it can take anywhere from 1 month to 6 months)
Below is an outline for the Regular H1B visa Processing method
H1B Visa - '
Regular' Application Process:
1. Offer & Acceptance of H1B Employment - H1B Sponsoring Company files a petition on your behalf. An employer can be an individual, partnership or corporation. Applications are "job specific." If your situation changes (for example, you lose your job or change locations), your new employer must file a new H1B visa petition. The visa is only valid for work with the employer that filed the original petition. The USCIS requires employment letters which provide:
» Specific information addressing the positions held
» The exact duties of the position
» The exact dates of employment
» Information regarding the supervisors and co-workers of the beneficiary.
2. The 'Prevailing Wage' and actual wage must be determined and compared. The H1B sponsoring company is required to pay the higher of the two. The prevailing wage is determined by the State Employment Security Agency by completing a special form, which asks the employer for the responsibilities, skills and experience needed for the job. The actual wage is determined by comparing other workers in the same positions with the same level of experience.
3. File the Labor Certification Application (LCA).
This is a form that contains information about the H1B Sponsoring Company. By completing and signing the form, the sponsor company is agreeing to pay the higher of the two wages, that the employment of this individual will not adversely affect the conditions of other workers and that there is no strike for their occupation at the workplace. Recently, Congress determined that H1B sponsor companies must attest that they will offer H1B visa holders the same benefits as their other workers. This includes health, life, medical, retirement, stock options and bonuses.
4. When the LCA is approved, the Department of Labor (DOL) will return a certified copy to the H1B sponsoring company.
5. The sponsor company must post notices at two conspicuous places at their business of the H1B visa filing for 10 days or provide notice of the filing to the collective bargaining representative for their employees. The LCA form can be used for the actual posting as well. After the Department of Labor accepts the LCA, then your employer can file your H1B visa petition.
6. H1B Petition assembled & filed with appropriate USCIS Service office. The filing must include the required forms, fees, documents and information; form I-129, education & experience evaluation & documents, training certificates, professional memberships, resume, employment agreement and letter of support.
7. Wait for the H1B petition to be processed.
Processing times vary depending upon service center and the visa. It could be a few months wait. If the H1B employer can show a substantial need for the employee, USCIS might approve the petition sooner. Employment cannot begin, however, until USCIS has issued the appropriate visa.
8. Receipt issued by USCIS The petitioner (sponsoring company) is sent a receipt by the USCIS Service Centre which bears a 9 digit reference number pertaining only to that particular case, H1B processing times and general information about the petitioner and foreign worker. This is the petitioner’s first confirmation that the petition is in the adjudicating queue.
9. A notice is generated by the prospective employer and mailed to the applicant notifying him/her of this receipt and outlining information on processing times etc. The notice should warn the consultant not to resign from current employment, sell accommodation or make any major life changes until it is communicated that the H1B visa petition has been approved.
10. Petition Approval
Generally a case will be approved within or on the designated time frame outlined in the USCIS receipt. An approval notice (Form I-797) is issued to the petitioner. The Form I-797 shows dates of validity for the foreign worker to work in H1B status for the petitioner .
~ The H1B visa beneficiary then applies for personal and family visas at the Consulate.
~ Normally, people apply to the Consulate that is closest to where they live.
~ Visa processing normally takes 2-3 days, depending on the Consulate.
Once the passports are returned with valid H1B visa stamp, the Consultant and his/her family may enter the U.S. in ‘H’ status.