Three important things you should know before applying for H1B Visa
We just passed the H1B visa application period (April) and I decided to repost this blog with a few updates since I have many professionals coming to me to complain that their visa application packages were not even received by USCIS.
Super sad right?! I really hope this is not your case!
Here we go!
You should start working on your visa paperwork with your company as soon as possible, I would say at least 3 months before the deadline in April! Don’t delay this process! Your paperwork package should reach USCIS by the first business day of April. The first important thing to know: be ahead of the visa application timeframe!
If USCIS receives a huge number of applications, it will simply stop receiving new applicants’ paperwork. The cap last year was reached in five business days (first week of April). 199,000 petitions were submitted and only 43% was accepted. I did not include in these numbers, applications which were late and were not received. If your company, your sponsor, does not prepare or submit your paperwork on time, you will simply be left out. Isn’t it horrible? Submitting applications for H-1B visas as soon as the lottery opens is essential. You really don’t want to be out after all the hard work invested in finally getting a company which would sponsor you. Among the 85,000 slots, 20,000 are for candidates holding a U.S. Master’s degree or higher and 65,000 are for all other applicants. As you can see, Master’s degree candidates have higher chances of being selected. For example, they participate in the 65,000 slots lottery first with everyone else and in case not selected, they also participate in the 20,000 slots lottery which is just for those who have Master and Ph.D. degrees. Before the order of the lottery was different: first, the 20,000 slots and second, the 65,000 slots - this year the USCIS shifted the order to increase the chances of Masters and Ph.D.candidates to be selected.
Can you see how important your education level is for this process? Your chance increases with higher academic degrees.
Second important thing: make sure you have all the requirements in place! Otherwise, your visa application can be denied even after being selected in the lottery.
What are the requirements for an H1B visa application?
- Bachelor’s degree (four-year program) or higher in a field associated with the job position
- The applicant credentials must meet the job requirements
- If a degree is obtained overseas, an education evaluation must be completed – WES is well-recognized for its service
- In some cases, equivalent work experience can be used to substitute for education. Three years of relevant work experience may be equivalent to one year of study. Please be aware of this equivalence is very complicated to be recognized and most likely would be considered a high-risk case which could be denied or requested for additional evidence (RFE – Request For Evidence). My companies have preferred to wait for their candidates/employees to finish a bachelor degree at least before moving ahead and applying for their work visas because of the risks involved.
- The job position has to meet or exceed the minimum prevailing wage requirements set by the Department of Labor. That is when your HR and legal departments need to search for the best title and salary associated with the job you would be doing. Having the right title and salary is the first step necessary to apply for what we call LCA (Labor Condition Application). Without an LCA, you cannot move ahead and apply for a work visa.
Third important thing: make sure your paperwork includes everything and even more!
Most of the time, your paperwork will be prepared by your HR and legal department, and you will not have too much participation in it. The majority of the documents must be provided by your company in addition to your education certifications and personal documents. However, I will be honest with you and it is hard for me to confess it here since I am an HR professional. Please check your package before your company sends it to USCIS. I have seen cases being denied because of mistakes and negligent work of many professionals out there. Not sure if the reasons behind their mistakes were incompetency or overload of work. Just check it to make sure your case has everything requested by USCIS and even more! Your application should be very appealing and strong to be accepted.
What would you need in your H1B visa package?
- Job description of your responsibilities
- Statement of work and itinerary of engagement
- Employment contract – Job offer letter with title, responsibilities, and salary mentioned
- Marketing materials such as website, news, brochures – proof that your company is real and well-recognized in the market
- Financial documents aren’t required but can be useful to verify the financial stability of your company such as tax returns, annual report, business plan, client lists, and Federal Employer ID
- The filing fee can range anywhere from $460 to $2,460, depending on your company and situation
- Premium Processing fee (optional) – employers can choose to pay a $1,225 Premium Processing fee, and USCIS will process application within 15 calendar days
- Passport biographical page
- College diploma(s) and transcripts
- Education evaluation if you studied abroad (usually done by WES)
- Resume or curriculum vitae
- Approval notices for any previous U.S. visas and I-94 for an employee who is currently in the U.S
- Payroll paycheck stubs for the last two pay periods if the employee has been with the company
- Previous employment authorization documentation cards if any and I-20 for employees who currently hold F-1 student status
- Any extra documentation which proves you rock in your field of studies and/or work – for example, I included in my paperwork a letter and news about when I won the IBM city competition among 4000 thousand students in France.
Following these three important instructions can maximize your chances of being selected in the H1B visa lottery and have your case approved. Good luck!
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Remember I am not an immigration lawyer; I am sharing what I have done working under my HR department and I am glad to say we have a pretty high success rate of visa approval!