Frequently Asked Questions
We have assembled these frequently asked questions on various immigration issues for your perusal. This compilation consists of questions asked by our clients as well as answers to questions we think you might want to ask.
What qualifications does an H-1B1 applicant require?
An applicant for an offered position must have, at the time of filing, a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in a specialized field.
How many H-1B1 visas are available and when?
Annual limit on H-1B1 applications – also known as the H1B Cap – is set 65000 by the US congress for those candidates with bachelor’s degrees. There is an additional 20, 000 for those with masters or higher degrees from US colleges. The allocation becomes available each year on October 1st – the beginning of the fiscal year. The USCIS accepts applications for these visas 6 months prior to the start date i.e. April 1. As we have observed in recent years, the demand for the visas has out-paced the allocation and we urge all our current as well as potential clients to start the application process in December to ensure that their cases are filed in time for the April 1 deadline.
Why are there differences in the time taken to process H-1B1 visa applications?
The time taken to process an H-1B1 application (even if the visas were filed at the same time) differ depending on the USCIS center processing the application as well the workload of the USCIS officer handling the application. There is nothing that our law offices can do to influence this process.
My spouse is here on an H4 Visa, can she work in the United States?
The spouse on an H4 petition cannot legally work in the United States. The spouse must apply for an H-1B1 petition (or other suitable work related visa) and can commence work on the date that the petition is approved.
How long can I stay in the US on an H-1B status?
Generally, a person can work in the United States on an H-1B1 status for up to six years – the initial approval is given for three years which can be subsequently extended by another 3 years with an extension of stay being filed. If the applicant wishes to stay in the United States beyond the 6 years then a labor certification must be filed for the applicant 365 days prior the time limit of 6 years expires and if there is an approved I-140 visa petition on behalf of the applicant and there is no immigrant visa number availability for the applicant to apply for legal permanent residency.
How can a company transfer employees to United States?
In order to transfer company to transfer its employee to their offices in the United States, there are certain conditions which must be met, namely:
- The company must qualify as valid business as stipulated by USCIS.
- Both the foreign and the US operations must be in business for the entire time that the employee is working in the United States.
- If the company is opening a new branch in the United States, then appropriate evidence should be provided to USCIS.
Who qualifies as L-1 candidate?
Inter-company transferees must be executives, managers, or employees with specialized knowledge. Irrespective of the job classification, the employee must have been employed at the employer’s foreign location for at least one year within the 3 years preceding the time of application. Executives and managers who meet the requirements can transfer to US on an L1A whereas a specialist can transfer on an L1B visa.
How Long can an L-1 employee stay in the United States?
If the L-1 candidate is a manager, they can remain in the United States for up to seven years. If the employee is a specialist, then they are permitted to stay up to five years. If the employment is seasonal or intermittent, then the employee may stay for an aggregate of 6 months or less per year.
What visas are available for spouses/children of L-1 applicant?
The spouse of a transferee or unmarried children over 21 years of age may be granted L-2 visas. A spouse of L-1 visa holder may apply for a work authorization – other L-2 visa holders are permitted to attend school, but are not allowed to work in the Unites States.
I have heard that a company can file for blanket L1s, what is a blanket L1?
A blanket L1 can be filed by companies which meet the following basic requirements:
- Must have 3 offices in the United States and Overseas
- A US workforce of 1000 employees or annual sales exceeding $25 million or at least ten L-1 approvals in the past 12 months.
Approved blanket L1 petitions shortens the processing times considerably as documents can be filed at an US consulate overseas for an L1 visa. Employers do not have to prove eligibility each time and no additional processing at USCIS is required for individual L1 cases.
Who qualifies for an O visa?
As the name suggests, the O visa is primarily for highly talented people who may not otherwise qualify under the other visa classifications, namely H, L or J visas. The applicant must meet the following requirements:
- The applicant should have demonstrated extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, proven by national and international awards or acclaim.
- A coach or assistant who has critical skills and experience in assisting the artistic or athletic performance of an O visa holder.
- A dependent spouse or child of an O-visa holder. The dependents are not allowed to work in the United States.
Professions that fall into O visa category are artists, athletes, entertainers, Chefs and business people without formal qualifications.
How long can an O-visa holder stay in the United States?
The O visa holder cannot stay in the United States for longer than 3 years. Further extension may be available.
What does extraordinary ability mean?
The field of business, education, science or athletics, it means that the applicant is a member of a small group that has risen to the very top in their respective field. In the case of arts, it means that the petitioner has reached a high level of distinction and they are referred to as “renowned”, “leading” or “well known” in the field of arts.
What is P Visa?
The P visa is a category of visas available for groups of athletes or entertainment groups who plan to be in United States temporarily. Dependents of a P visa holder can also obtain a P visa but cannot legally work while in the United States.