General Backgroundof H-1B Specialty Worker Visas

Houston H-1B Specialty Professional Worker Visa Lawyers - Law Offices of Steven Tuan Pham, P.C.

Since the enactment of the Immigration Act of 1990, U.S. immigration policy favors those that have skills, experience, or the financial capability to come to the U.S. As such, the H-1B Specialty Worker Visas was created to attract professionals with specialty skills to come and work in the U.S.  Under H-1B, the petitioning employer will file the visa application on the behalf of the foreign employee, or potential employee. Annually, there are 65,000 H-1B visas available for specialty professionals.  In addition to the 65,000 H-1B visas, an additional 20,000 visas are available for applicants who obtained Master’s Degrees or higher from U.S. univeristies and colleges.  However, qualified teachers and educators are exempt from the numerical limitation and may apply for H-1B throughout the year. Because of the recent recession, the 65,000 visa limit has not been exhausted and employers may now file H-1B visas for employees almost throughout the year. Please contact our Houston H-1B Visa Lawyers for more information.

How Do I Qualify For An H-1B Visa?

To qualify, the employer must first offer the foreign employee a fulltime or a part-time professional position.  The offer must contain the proposed salary that is within the prevailing wage, issued by the U.S. Department of Labor. Our Houston H-1B Visa Attorneys will assist employers in obtaining the prevailing wage based on your geographical area. Additionally, the employment must be one that is qualified as a “specialty occupation.”  A "specialty occupation” means an occupation that requires theoretical and practical application of an area of specialized knowledge, such as an accountant, teacher, software developer, information technology analyst, an engineer, or a scientist.  In addition, the person must also have a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent of a U.S. degree.  This list may be expanded depending on the position. For example, our Houston H-1B visa attorneys have recently assisted an employer to qualify the positions of "Equine Management" and "Equine Pedigre Specialists" as specialty occupations. Additionally, the employee must have at least a bachelor degree or higher. In many circumstances, The USCIS will accept experience in place of a bachelor degree.  The USCIS will replace every three years of experience for one year of education.  Therefore, if the IT professional, a network administrator, only has an associate degree in information technology, but has 6 or more years of experience, the person may qualify for an H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa. Lastly, our Houston H-1B Lawyers or your Houston H-1B visa Attorney must obtain a labor condition application from the DOL. Please contact the Houston H-1B Visa Attorneys or the Sugar Land H-1B Specialty Worker Lawyers for information to determine if your degree is an equivalent to a U.S. bachelor degree. 

What Is The Application Process For H-1B Visas?

First the petitioning employer has prepare employment offer for the prospective foreign employee. Such offer must be detailed and proscribed the job duties consistent with the specialty occupation and a salary offer that is equal to or more than the prevailing wage for such position.  Subsequently, the employer must prepares and file a petition on behalf of the foreign employee.  It is important that the employer only files one (1) H-1B application for each prospective employee.  The USCIS will reject and fine any employer who attempted to file multiple applications for the same employee.  On the contrary, the employee may have different petitioning employers filing H-1B specialty worker visas on their benefit. Recently, the nuber of H-1B applications have dclined; thus, USCIS has not utilized the electronic visa lottery that was traditionally used. Employers now may enjoy filing for H-1B throughout the year.

In October of 2000, the American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) was signed into law. AC21 includes a portability provision that allowed previous H-1B holders to start with a new employer upon filing and receiving a receipt from the USCIS for the new H-1B petition. This is sometimes refers to as an “H-1B Transfer.”  However, it is not a transfer at all but that the new application will use the existing H-1B visa that previously awarded to the beneficiary.  The law drastically changed the way the H-1B visa holders are regulated.  Before the enactments of AC21, individuals could not start the new position H-1B employer until the new H-1B petition was approved. For more information on H-1B Transfer, please contact the Houston H-1B Transfer Lawyers and the Spring H-1B Visa Attorneys at the Law Offices of Steven Tuan Pham..

As of the date of this article, F-1 international students who are graduating after April 1 of each year (the date in which the USCIS will start accepting H-1B applications for following fiscal year with the October 1 start date) may now file for a change of status application when filing for H-1B.  The student must indicate that the start date of the change of status is October 1 of that year.  As such, international students under F-1 visa status may remain in the U.S. while waiting for the decisions of USCIS.  If the person was not selected under the lottery system, or if the application is denied, then their status ends on the date of the notification and they must leave the U.S. to avoid overstaying their visas.  Those that were selected may remain in the U.S. and begin work on October 1. 

Finally, as of August 13, 2010, President Barack Obama has issued Public Law 111-230 that requires additional application fees for employers who have 50% or more employees under H-1B and L visas combined. Please contact our Houston H-1B Visa lawyers should you have concerns whether Public Law 111-230 applies to your organization.

Advantages and Drawbacks For H-1B Visas?

One drawback of the H-1B Specialty Worker Visa is that the applicant’s spouse, H-4, cannot work.  On the other hand, unlike other non-immigrant visas, H-1B is considered a dual-purpose visa and does not have to show that the foreign national has the intent to depart the U.S.  In addition, because of the limited number of H-1B visa available annually, applicants are placed in a lottery system in which the computer will randomly select the application for review.  Although the number of applications is expected to be lower than previous years, the USCIS still expect that the number of H-1B applications to be higher than the number of visas available.  The USCIS will continue this lottery system until further notice.  Employers should be aware that the USCIS will reject the application, as well as issuing fines, if the employer files more than one application for any one potential employee.  The employee, however, may be sponsored by many employers on his own behalf; and thus, can have various applications by different employers. 

An initial H-1B visa is authorized to stay in the U.S. for 3 years. At the end of the initial period, 3 months before the end of the visa expiration date, the employer may peition for a renewal for a one-time, three-year period, totaling 6 years.  Within this period, the employer may file an I-140 immigrant petition for the employee. If the I-140 immigrant petition is approved and there employee has a pending adjustment of status application, the H-1B visa holder may file an annual extension to continue to work and remain in the U.S. Please see above.

Employers who wish to employ their H-1B on a permanent basis should file an immigrant petition for the employee as soon as applicable. It could take 3 to 4 years before the employer’s immigrant petition (I-140) is approved.  Once approved, the employees and their spouses may file for adjustment of status and obtain employment authorizations.


Immigration Law is a vast area of law and requires an immigration attorney with years of experience to understand the intricacies of the Immigration & Nationality Law. Please contact the Houston H-1B Visa Attorneys and the Houston H1-B Specialty Worker Visa Lawyers to ensure proper documentations to show that the foreign national does not have the presumed “immigrant intent.”  Please call the one of our Houston Immigration Attorneys and the Spring Texas H-1B and H-2B Visa Immigration Lawyers at the Law Offices of Steven Tuan Pham. today at 713-517-6645 or complete our Contact Form. At Veritas, you will have the opportunity to work directly with a Houston Immigration Attorney or a Houston H-1B Visa Lawyer.  Our attorneys are accessible and will always return your calls within 24 hours.

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