H-1B Visa Application Guide

The H-1B visa serves as a crucial bridge between American companies and talented professionals from around the globe. Designed for individuals with specialized expertise in fields like science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), but not limited to such fields, it empowers U.S. businesses to tap into a diverse pool of talent, fostering innovation and propelling the nation’s technological advancement.

Obtaining an H-1B visa requires specific qualifications. Candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in their specialty, demonstrating solid theoretical and technical knowledge. In cases where academic qualifications are absent, extensive work experience can be a substitute, with three years of professional experience considered equivalent to each year of university study.

By bridging this skills gap, the H-1B program creates a win-win for both employers and skilled workers, contributing to the overall growth and competitiveness of the U.S. economy. So, if you are interested in the H-1B visa application and H-1B process, this is the guide for you!

What Is the H-1B Visa?

The H-1B visa is a temporary opportunity for foreign individuals with specialized skills to work in the United States. If you dream of contributing your talents to American innovation, this visa might be your gateway. However, it’s essential to understand the critical details before embarking on this journey.

The H 1B Visa Is a 3-part Process

  1. Selection: Unfortunately, luck plays a role here. Applicants are chosen through a lottery system, with a limited number of H-1B visas available yearly.
  2. Timing: Keep in mind important dates! Employment for H-1B visas typically starts on October 1st, aligning with the U.S. fiscal year. This means your visa must be approved beforehand to be eligible for work.
  3. Duration: While you can enter the U.S. 10 days before your job starts, the visa is initially valid for three years, with a maximum extension of six years. Remember, all H-1B visas end on September 30th of the expiration year.

So, the H-1B visa offers a temporary yet valuable chance to bring your expertise to the U.S. But be prepared for the competitive selection process and specific timing requirements.

IMPORTANT: Attention aspiring H-1B visa applicants! USCIS offers a second lottery opportunity to secure an H-1B visa for the 2024 (F.Y. 2024) program. If you missed the initial selection, you have another shot at making your dream of working in the U.S. a reality. Learn more from this USCIS announcement.

H-1B Visa Requirements and Eligibility

The H-1B visa unlocks doors for foreign nationals with specialized skills to work in the U.S. But before embarking on this journey, understanding the requirements and eligibility criteria is crucial.

Do I Qualify for an H-1B Visa?

The first answer to this question is given by your minimum education degree. If you hold a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) in your specialty field from an accredited university, you already made the first step. Foreign degrees of the same level are also acceptable.

Alternatively, you can have:

  • Unrestricted state license: Possess a license or certification in your specialty recognized in the state of employment.
  • Experience equivalent: Demonstrate verifiable education, experience, or training equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in your field.
  • Specialty Occupations: Your job offer must fall under a “specialty occupation,” requiring advanced knowledge (theoretical and practical expertise) or a bachelor’s degree or equivalent (as the minimum entry requirement).

H-1B Visa Examples: I.T. specialists, architects, accountants, professors, doctors, lawyers, etc.

H-1B Visa Requirements in a Nutshell



Unrestricted state license

Experience equivalent

Specialty occupation


Bachelor's degree (or equivalent) in your specialty field

Possess a valid license/certification in your field

Verifiable experience and training equal to a bachelor's degree

A job requiring advanced knowledge and typically a bachelor's degree


B.S. in Computer Science for an I.T. Specialist role

State Bar membership for a Lawyer role

10+ years of experience in architecture

Software Engineer position

The H-1B visa acts as a bridge for foreign professionals with specialized skills to work in the U.S. But the process starts with an American employer seeking suitable talent.

Here's How the H-1 B Program Works

  1. Job Need: A U.S. company with an IRS number must have a genuine open position requiring specialized skills or higher education. They must demonstrate they’ve tried unsuccessfully to find a qualified American candidate.
  2. Candidate Selection: The employer receives applications and selects a foreign candidate who fulfills the job requirements.
  3. H-1B Sponsorship: The employer initiates the H-1B visa sponsorship process, navigating legal requirements to secure the visa for their chosen candidate.

This sponsorship is crucial, as it demonstrates the employer’s commitment to the candidate and adherence to U.S. regulations. Remember, the H-1B visa is temporary, with specific qualifications and limitations. Consult an immigration attorney for further details and personalized guidance.

USCIS makes it clear that it operates with some nonimmigrant classifications that apply to certain professionals. Suppose you wish to perform services in the U.S. under the H-1B visa. In that case, you need to learn more about specialty occupations, providing services of exceptional merit, working for the Department of Defense (DOD) cooperative research and development project, or working as a fashion model of distinguished skills and merits.

H-1B Visa Eligibility and Requirements for Specialty Occupations, DOD Projects, and Fashion Models

The H-1B visa allows foreign nationals with specialized skills to work in the U.S. for temporary periods. It covers three main categories: H-1B specialty occupations, H-1B2 DOD researcher & development project worker, and H-1B3 fashion model.


H-1B Specialty Occupations

H-1B2 DOD Researcher & Development Project Worker

H-1B3 Fashion Model

General Requirements

  • Requires theoretical and practical expertise in a specialized field. 
  • Typically, it demands a bachelor’s degree or higher as the minimum entry requirement.
  • Requires a bachelor’s degree or equivalent for the specific project duties.
  • Needs verification from the project manager and details about the project and beneficiary’s employment dates.
  • The applicant must be a fashion model of “distinguished merit.”

Labor Condition Application Required?

Yes. Your employer must file the Labor Condition Application (LCA) demonstrating they couldn't find a qualified American candidate.


Yes. Requires an LCA from the Department of Labor.

IMPORTANT: You must have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in the relevant field for all categories. This condition can be met through a U.S. or foreign degree, state license, or equivalent experience. The H-1B Specialty Occupations and H-1B3 Fashion Model require an LCA demonstrating no qualified U.S. candidate was found. Some occupations may require a specific state license for H-1B eligibility.

H-1B Visa Application and Process

While the H-1B visa process may seem complex, understanding the two main parts – employer petitioning and applicant application – can simplify things.

H-1B Visa Process and Documents for Employers

The journey begins with your potential employer. They first file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor, guaranteeing they’ll offer you fair wages and working conditions. This application also demonstrates they couldn’t find a qualified American candidate for the specific role.

Next, your employer submits a detailed petition (Form I-129) to USCIS. This petition highlights the specialized nature of your position and why your unique skills are required. It also showcases their genuine attempts to recruit qualified U.S. candidates before considering your expertise.

H1-B Application Step






Submit Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129)

Wait for the USCIS Review

Petition Approval


Obtain an approved LCA from the Department of Labor:

  • Certifies fair wages and working conditions for the foreign worker.
  • Clearly state the position details, salary, and duration of employment.
  • Company information and number of employees.
  • State employee job description and income.
  • Include prevailing wage information for the position and location.

File the petition with USCIS, including:

  • Approved LCA
  • Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker
  • Proof of employer’s financial ability to pay the offered wage
  • Evidence of the specialized nature of the job and the need for the foreign worker’s expertise
  • Documentation of unsuccessful recruitment efforts for qualified U.S. candidates
  • Job offer letter outlining responsibilities and salary
  • Foreign worker’s resume and qualifications
  • Payment for filing fees

USCIS will review the petition and assess the following:

  • The job’s legitimacy and need for a foreign worker
  • The qualifications of the foreign worker
  • Employer’s ability to meet H-1B requirements

Upon approval, the employee can proceed with the visa application process.

H-1B Visa Process for Employees (Applicants)

Once your employer’s petition receives approval, it’s your turn to take center stage. You’ll apply for an H-1B visa at your home country’s U.S. embassy or consulate. This involves submitting the necessary documents and attending an interview to confirm your qualifications and the legitimacy of your employment opportunity.

Remember, even if you don’t require a visa for entry, you’ll still need to apply to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for admission under the H-1B classification upon arrival.

H1-B Application Step






Eligibility Check

Employer Sponsorship

Petition Approval

Visa Application


Meet H-1B criteria, including a bachelor's degree (or equivalent) in the relevant field.

Secure a job offer and employer willing to sponsor your H-1B petition.

Employer files Form I-129 with USCIS, including an approved LCA demonstrating they couldn't find a qualified American candidate.

Depends on your location:

  • Change status within the U.S.: If already in the U.S. on another visa, wait for H-1B activation on October 1st.
  • Consular Processing: Apply for the visa at your home country’s U.S. embassy/consulate, submit documents, and attend an interview.

Key H1-B Documents for Employees (Applicants)



I-129 Petition Approval

Proof of Education

Job Offer Letter


Previous Employment Documentation (if applicable)

Job Location Evidence (if outside U.S.)


Valid passport with blank pages

Online visa application form

Approval notice from USCIS – Form I-797, Notice of Action

Diplomas, transcripts

Letter outlining your position and responsibilities

Highlighting your qualifications and experience

Tax returns, contact information, pay slips

Pictures, supervisor/co-worker contact details

While the H-1B visa process might seem intricate, understanding these two main stages – employer H-1B sponsorship and individual application – can provide a more precise roadmap.

H-1B Visa Fees: A Breakdown for Employers and Employees

The initial costs of securing an H-1B visa involve a modest $215 registration fee from April 1, 2024, to enter the H-1B lottery system. However, if your application gets selected, the financial responsibility shifts to your employer. They’ll shoulder the initial $460 (if they are small employers and nonprofits) or $780 (for bigger companies) filing fee for Form I-129, the formal visa petition. But that’s just the starting point.

Additional costs usually vary depending on several factors. Larger companies (with more than 25 employees) face higher fees than smaller ones. Speeding up the application through premium processing comes with a $2,805 price tag. Changing employers while on an H-1B also incur additional fees. Finally, many involve immigration attorneys, adding their fees to the overall cost.

How Much Does an H-1B Visa Cost?

Let’s try to get a more straightforward answer in the table below!


Basic Filing Fee

USCIS Anti-Fraud Fee

ACWIA Education and Training Fee

Premium Processing (Optional)

Public Law 114-113 Fee

Visa Application Fee

Visa Fees for Dependents


Processing of Form I-129 petition submitted by the employer

Anti-fraud efforts within the immigration system

Supports educational programs for U.S. workers

Expedites petition processing to 15 business days

Applies if the company:

  • Has 50+ U.S. employees
  • More than half of company employees have H-1B, L-1A, L-1B visas

Petitioner seeks initial H-1B status or change of employer

Processing of visa application

Visas for accompanying dependents (optional)

Applies to

* Bigger Companies
* Smaller Companies

All employers


  • Less than 25 employees
  • More than 25 employees

Employers or employees

Employers meeting all criteria


Employees with dependents seeking visas


* $780
* $460









While the additional $4,000 Public Law 114-113 fee might seem like a blanket charge for H-1B petitions, it has specific criteria. Don’t worry if you fall under certain categories! This fee doesn’t apply if you’re:

  • Extending the existing H-1B status for the same employee with the same petitioner. Think of it as renewing their visa within the same company.
  • Amending an already submitted H-1B petition for the same employee with the same petitioner. This could involve correcting minor details or changes in employment terms.
  • Applying for different employment-based visas like H-1B1 (specialty occupations with theoretical knowledge), H-2A (temporary agricultural workers), or H-2B (temporary non-agricultural workers). So, different visa categories altogether are exempt from this specific fee.

What Forms Are Required for the H-1B Visa, and How Much Do They Cost?

Navigating the H-1B visa can feel like navigating a complex legal jungle, so let’s shed light on the essential forms and their associated costs:

  • Form I-765: Your Work Permit Key ($520): This mandatory form unlocks your ability to work in the U.S. Think of it as your official “open for business” sign.
  • Form I-134: Showing You’ve Got Your Back ($0): This form, primarily required for dependents, assures the U.S. you have the financial resources to support them. It’s like bringing your financial report card.
  • Form G-1145: The Optional Speedy Delivery Upgrade ($0): Want to move your application to the express lane? This form allows electronic notifications about your visa status at no extra cost. Think of it as a free express shipping option!
  • Form I-944: Self-Sufficiency Declaration ($0): This form declares your financial independence if you meet specific criteria. Consider it a way to say, “I’m a self-made applicant!”

These are the primary forms; costs can vary based on your situation. Think of this as a starting point, not a final bill. Additional expenses like travel or document preparation might come into play. Furthermore, while the exact cost depends on your unique journey, expect to pay at least a few hundred dollars for application fees and potential extras. Investing in an immigration attorney can also be wise for personalized guidance and cost clarity.

IMPORTANT: The landscape of visa application fees shifted from April 1, 2024, with potential implications for aspiring H-1B visa holders. The cost of filing Form I-129, a crucial component of the H-1B application process, increased from $460 to $1,385. The pre-registration fee increased to $215 from $10. These changes impacted the financial accessibility of the H-1B visa for both potential applicants and sponsoring employers. It is crucial to stay informed about the official implementation of these changes and their potential impact on your visa application plans.

The H-1B Visa Lottery Registration and Caps

While the H-1B visa allows qualified foreign professionals to work in the United States in specialty occupations, a critical caveat is an annual cap on the number of new visas that can be issued. This means not everyone who qualifies will automatically receive a H-1B visa.

Here’s a breakdown of the key facts:

  • Annual H-1B Lottery Cap: 65,000 new H-1B visas are available each year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for applicants with a U.S. Master’s degree or higher.
  • Selection Process: Currently, USCIS utilizes a random lottery system to select applicants from the pool of registered petitions.
  • Registration Period: This usually occurs in the first weeks of April, with a short window to submit your registration fee and supporting documents.
  • Selection Notification: Selected applicants receive notification in May and can then proceed with filing the complete H-1B petition.

IMPORTANT: The U.S. government is considering changes to the H-1B cap and selection process. Stay informed by checking official USCIS updates and consulting with an immigration attorney for guidance specific to your situation. Understanding the cap and its implications is crucial for planning your H-1B visa application journey. Be proactive, gather information, and consider seeking professional advice to navigate this aspect of the process effectively.

If you want to learn more about the H-1B visa lottery, read this H-1B Lottery Cap Guide.

H-1B Visa Registration Steps

You must submit your H-1B electronic registration through the USCIS online portal. Remember, USCIS won’t accept early submissions, so mark your calendar and stay within the designated timeframe.

Step 1: USCIS Account Creation

Choosing the correct account is essential. USCIS offers three options: 

  • Registrant Account: For companies filing directly.
  • Attorney/Representative Account: If you’re seeking legal help in the process.
  • Applicant, Petitioner, or Requestor Account: This type doesn’t work for H-1B registrations.

Remember that creating the wrong account type is grounds for dismissal, as USCIS can render your H-1B application ineligible.

Step 2: The H-1B Sponsor Submits the Registration

Pay close attention to detail! Submit one registration per beneficiary and ensure all information is accurate and complete. Remember, duplicate entries (entering the same H-1B beneficiary twice) can lead to disqualification, so double-check everything before submitting.

Step 3: Selection and Next Steps

Congratulations if your petition gets selected! Now, your employer plays a crucial role in moving forward. They have 90 days to file the complete H-1B petition (Form I-129) with USCIS. This petition requires supporting documents and payment of filing fees. This typically happens between April and June, so be prepared to move quickly when the time comes.

If USCIS approves the petition, the beneficiary receives their official H-1B visa, allowing them to start working in the U.S. typically on October 1st of that year. Remember, even after selection, approval isn’t guaranteed.

H-1B Visa Lottery Application Frequently Asked Questions

If you have more questions regarding H-1B visa applications, processing times, fees, caps, etc., read here some of the answers we gave to our clients!

What is the Processing Time for an H-1B Visa?

Securing an H-1B visa isn’t a one-step process but a multi-stage journey with crucial deadlines. The window to kickstart it usually opens in April, but timing is everything. Why? Because only 65,000 visas are available through the regular cap and another 20,000 for those holding a U.S. Master’s degree. 

So, the closer you are to the April window when you initiate the application, the better your chances of getting through the narrow visa gate. Think of it like boarding a limited-capacity train; the earlier you arrive, the higher your odds of securing a seat. Remember, even if you meet all the eligibility criteria, the lottery system adds an element of chance, so starting promptly in April is vital to maximize your potential for success.

If you work in specific fields, you might enjoy an exemption from the limited pool of 65,000 visas. Think of it as a VIP line that bypasses the crowd.

So, who gets this special access?

Government organizations, non-profit research organizations, and institutions of higher education (including their associated non-profit partners) all fall under the exemption umbrella. Here’s the catch: even though you could avoid the visa lottery, you must follow the regular processing timeline. Following those deadlines and completing all steps remains crucial for a smooth journey toward your H-1B visa.

H-1B visa holders can apply for Green Cards, granting them permanent residency in the United States. However, the processing times for Green Cards can be lengthy, potentially spanning several years. This can create challenges for children of H-1B visa holders, whose dependent status is tied to their parent’s visa. If a child turns 21 before their parent’s Green Card is approved, they may need to apply for a student visa to maintain legal status in the country.

Once your employer files your H-1B visa petition, you’ll be assigned a unique 13-digit receipt number. Use it to see the progress of your application on the USCIS website. This number usually starts with letters like “EAC” or “WAC” followed by ten digits. Here’s what different status updates might mean:

  • Submitted: Your employer successfully filed the petition, and it’s now waiting in line to be processed.
  • Selected: You’ve been chosen in the random lottery and can proceed with filing the complete H-1B petition.
  • Not Selected: While unlucky this time, don’t be discouraged. You can retry next year or explore other visa options with your employer.
  • Denied: This usually happens if your employer accidentally submits multiple petitions for you, leading to denial for all.
  • Invalidated-Failed Payment: Double-check with your employer, as the petition filing might not have gone through due to a payment issue.

Remember, these are just some everyday status updates. It’s always best to check the USCIS website for the latest details.

Yes. With a valid H-1B visa, international travel doesn’t have to put your status at risk. If your visa hasn’t expired, you can generally re-enter the U.S. and continue working under your H-1B. To be extra cautious, consider carrying proof of your employment and visa validity when coming through customs. Remember, immigration regulations can change, so always double-check with official sources and consult an immigration attorney for personalized advice before your travels.

You can typically extend an H-1B for another three years, potentially staying for six years. The process involves your employer stepping up to the plate again, filing Form I-129, supporting documents, and the necessary fees. Remember, the six-year limit applies, so plan your H-1B visa extension accordingly!

Your journey on an H-1B visa can be shared with your family. Your spouse and any unmarried children under 21 can get on board with H-4 visas, allowing them to accompany you in the U.S. And here’s the cherry on top: if your spouse has an H-4 visa, they might even unlock the door to work authorization! This possibility occurs if you, the H-1B holder, are officially pursuing a Green Card.

Job losses can be stressful, but don’t panic if it happens while you’re on an H-1B visa. While losing your job puts you “out of status,” you have a crucial 60-day grace period from your termination date to figure things out. During this time, the good news is that you might be able to switch employers without losing your visa. But certain conditions apply, so research thoroughly and consult an immigration specialist for personalized guidance.

Start Your H-1B Visa Application Now!

Are you worried about navigating the H-1B visa application maze and risking delays? Breathe easy! At ImmigrationDirect, we understand the importance of accuracy and efficiency when securing your H-B1 visa. We’re not just immigration services; we’re your partners in success.

Our experts can guide you through the process, ensuring your application is flawlessly completed and submitted on time. No more worrying about missing documents or deadlines! Contact us today!

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