Let’s be fair here… you’re not a dummy. At least, you’re not nearly as much of one as I am. With that said, we interact with and hire a good deal of international professionals here at Cumming Corporation, specifically from the UK. Yes, that means you. The Quantity Surveyor, Project Manager, and Engineer!
Every year we come into the visa season (typically the months leading up to the H1B submission deadline) and I spend countless hours writing emails and talking on the phone with Hiring Managers, organizational leadership, and candidates alike attempting to explain the visa process, the costs involved, the odds of obtaining a US work visa and more. Not this year! In an attempt to get ahead of the game a bit, I’m providing the basics of common visas for the US. DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY. I just play one on TV. OK, that’s not true either, but this is simply an overview of my knowledge and experience as it relates to the information of various visas that allow you to work in the United States.
Disclaimers out of the way, let’s get started with our first installment… the H-1B Visa!
The H1B is, perhaps, the most commonly known visa an international worker would utilize to be permitted to work within the US. The USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services) has a cap (maximum amount of H1B’s granted to NEW employees) of 65,000 for regular petitions and an additional 20,000 for the petitions of those with advanced degrees such as a Masters or PhD equivalent. People currently possessing an H1B and working within the US do not count against this cap at all. A US based company must sponsor you for an H1B. If granted, an H1B is good for 3 years and can be renewed for an additional 3 years for a total of 6 years. During that time, the H1B holder should work with their employer and an attorney to work towards permanent resident status if they would like to continue working in the US after the 6 years are up.
Below is the basic process:
- You would like to work for a company and the company would like to employ you.
- Be prepared for lots of paperwork prior to the submission deadline. Most attorneys will provide a checklist to you.
- The Company works through an immigration attorney to submit an application to USCIS on April 1st. The odds of you being granted an H1B are diminished for every day that passes after April 1st.
- In any good to great economic climate where professional talent is hard to find/hire, the cap for available H1B’s will be met within days, if not sooner. The USCIS will have a press release stating the day that the cap has been met and that it is no longer accepting petitions. In these situations, petitions are accepted for 5 days.
- Assuming there is a greater amount of demand (petitions) than supply (available H1B’s), the USCIS will do a random selection of the applicants – also known as the H1B Lottery. In this case, the USCIS will FIRST randomly select and approve 20,000 VISA candidates who applied for a higher degree status. If you applied for the higher degree status, but were not granted the H1B, then you will be moved to the larger cap of ‘regular’ petitions that tops out at 65,000 visas. Another round of random selections is made against the 65,000 cap. All random selections are computer generated. If you were not selected, then all fees are returned to the employer who sponsored you.
- You are notified within 1-4 months (on average) after the application date if you were selected.
- If you were granted an H1B, then the earliest start date with your new employer is on or after October 1st.
Information you should be aware of:
- For Hiring Managers, Recruiters, and Candidates out there – timing is everything. If you apply to a company in May, 2014 and the company is willing to sponsor you AND you are granted the H1B during the lottery, then the earliest you can start would be October, 2015.
- In 2014 (known as the Fiscal Year 2015 H1B Lottery), there were approximately 172,500 H1B applicants with 65,000 regular plus 20,000 advanced degree applicant H1Bs granted. Therefore, if you applied for an H1B, your chances were about 50% to get an H1B.
- In 2013 (FY2014 H1B Lottery), there were approximately 124,000 petitions providing 65% odds.
- From 2009-2012 (FY2010-FY2012), it took anywhere from 3 months to almost a full year for the cap to be met and, therefore, there was not a lottery. If you applied during those years, then you more than likely were granted an H1B.
- If you’re an applicant with non-US citizenship and you speak with an employer in November of 2014, then you will have to wait almost an entire year (Oct 1st, 2015) to start work for that employer – assuming you received the H1B.
- The cost to an employer to process and be granted an H1B for a new employee varies greatly. As a very rough average, expect the employer to incur approx. $10,000+ in various fees.
- At Cumming Corporation, we had almost a 100% success rate in having our H1B petitions granted until FY2015 (2014 deadline) where the odds caught up to us and we were right on the average of a 50% success rate.
- Don’t lose hope! This year (2014), we had a few candidates granted their H1B’s almost immediately. We then had a long pause of no new information followed by a response that we were unsuccessful with certain parties. We assumed this meant that all additional candidates would not be selected. We reached out to one person in particular to inform him that his petition was more than likely not granted. Sure enough, a month later we received word that he did, in fact, get his H1B.
Transferring an H-1B Visa:
- If you have already received an H1B and you’re currently working in the United States, then you can do a transfer of your visa from one company to another – assuming the new company is willing to sponsor you.
- The cost of an H1B transfer is approximately $5,000+. The employer will typically pick up these costs (we do).
- If the employer/attorney applies for premium processing then the transfer process can be as quick as 2-3 weeks.
- There is no limit on how many times you can transfer your H1B.
Finally, there is something called an H-1B ‘recapture’. It can be fairly complicated to address, so please use this link to learn more about it: http://www.hooyou.com/h-1b/recapture-time.html.
So there you have it! This will be a living document that I will add to and potentially subtract from as time goes on.
If you have any questions at all, please place them in the comments section below and we’ll do our best to answer them for you. A website with good information, albeit not great user interface, can be found at http://redbus2us.com/.
Additional Visas that I will address in the coming weeks/months will include: J1 (Training Visa), T (Student Visa), O1/2 (Performer Visa), and L/E.