The Application Process
There are three main steps:
The company files a Labor Certification Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) making all the required certifications (as listed below).
After the LCA is approved, the company files a Form I-129 requesting H-1B status for the employee and submits all supporting affidavits, documents and fees.
After the Form I-129 is approved, if the employee is already inside the U.S., they are allowed to begin working on the start date; if they are outside the U.S., they are entitled to use the approved Form I-129 (and underlying documents) to apply for the H-1B.
Required Employer Certifications & Documentation
The minimum requirements companies must satisfy include:
- Proof of the existence of an employer-employee relationship – the company must have the ability to hire, fire, pay, supervise and control the employee’s work. Company ownership can be proven with organizational documents (e.g., Articles of Incorporation or Operating Agreements), Shareholder and Voting Agreements, Stock Option Programs, Securities Instruments and similar documentation.
- Proof that the position qualifies as a specialty occupation and at a minimum requires a Bachelor’s Degree (or its equivalent – e.g., license, certification or registration) that is related to the job. The USCIS relies on the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) in making that determination. Other documents that can be used to support the specialization include expert opinions on the relationship between the degree and the job, and affidavits and job listings from competitors or industry peers hiring for parallel positions.
- Documentation supporting that the business has a genuine business need to hire the H-1B worker.
- Proof that the employer has the financial means to pay wages for the foreseeable future. The ability to pay must be proven with the employee’s paystubs or recent W-2s; the company’s most recent tax returns or audited financial statements reflecting that net income is equal to or higher than the proposed salary; or financial statements or tax records showing the company’s net current assets are equal to or greater than the proposed salary in the covered years.
- Proof that the salary is equal to or greater than the prevailing wage. Geographic location is taken into account in addition to the type and level of the position, as well as related factors. This is proven usually with a Labor Certification Application (LCA) – certified by the DOL – that confirms that the employer is or will be paying wages that are consistent with those paid to similar workers in similar positions with comparable educational and experience levels.
- Proof that the foreign worker’s education level and experience are commensurate with the job’s requirements.
- Certification from the company that the employment won’t adversely affect the working conditions of similarly situated workers.
- Certification that there’s no strike or lockout implicating the worker’s job.
- Confirmation from the company of its legal obligation to pay the worker’s reasonable costs of transportation back to their home country in the event of a premature termination. (There is no such obligation is the employee quits.)
- Confirmation from the company that it is obligated to observe anti-discrimination laws with respect to foreign workers (e.g., no discrimination on the basis of national origin, gender, etc.).
- Confirmation from the company that it’s obligated to extend to the foreign worker the same benefits provided to U.S. employees (e.g., insurance, sick days, time off, stock options, vacation and any other benefits).
- Confirmation from the company that it’s obligated to observe the same policies, procedures and laws that apply to U.S. workers with respect to bonuses and promotions.
If you were in the US for a total of 6 years – not including business travel days or vacations abroad – then you’ll be required to leave the US for at least one year.
Here are some exceptions that might help you:
- You have a labor certification that was filed more than 365 days ago that’s been approved AND a pending I-140 (“Green Card”) petition – you’re eligible for a seventh year.
- Your employer filed a labor certification that’s been pending for 365 days – you’re eligible for a seventh year.
- Your I-140 petition was approved – you’re eligible for a three-year extension no matter how long your labor certification has been pending.
The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting new H-1B quota based visa applications on April 1, 2016. The earliest date to start work on those visas will be October 1, 2016. As a reminder, the cap on regular H-1Bs remains at 65,000 and at 20,000 for US Master Degree H-1Bs.
Also, if you’re an employer with 50 or more employees, and more than half of those employees are H-1B, L-1A or L-1B visas, your fees went up as of December 18, 2015, and you will be paying a $4000 ‘special’ fee for new H-1Bs and transfers.