5 Tips for Navigating the H-1B Visa Process was originally published on Firsthand.
Each year, thousands of international students apply for H-1B visas—temporary non-immigrant visas that allow individuals to work in the U.S. Since only a limited number of H-1Bs are given out each year, the H-1B visa process can be stressful, not to mention difficult to navigate. So, if you’re an international student and at a crossroads about the ideal approach to take when petitioning for an H-1B visa, you’ll want to use the following five tips.
1. Make sure you have the required educational qualification or work experience
Generally, a minimum qualification such as a bachelor’s degree is a must to pass through the approval process. Significant work experience in the required industry can also add to the credibility of your application, even if you don’t have the necessary qualification. Applicants with higher qualifications like postgraduate or doctorate degrees tend to have a better chance of getting the work visa, given the way the H-1B lottery works.
2. Consider applying for the H-1B visa with more than one employer
To improve your chances of getting an H1-B, consider filing your visa petition through more than one employer. Note that the U.S. immigration department will not entertain multiple applications from the same employer for an individual. However, it does accept petitions from different organizations. Doing so will greatly raise your odds of landing an H-1B.
3. Make sure your employer covers the visa processing cost
U.S. regulation mandates that employers pay for H-1B filing fees on behalf of their petitioning employees. So, applicants must avoid paying for the visa fees themselves—otherwise, they risk the outright rejection of their applications.
4. Search for H-1B visa cap-exempt work opportunities
Certain employers like government research institutions and nonprofit organizations fall under the criteria of cap-exempt employers in the U.S. If you’re eligible for a job with such an employer, you don’t have to go through the restrictive lottery system for selection. Also, be wary of not switching from a sponsoring cap-exempt organization to a regular employer post-approval, as you’ll then need to file a fresh visa petition.
5. Seek consultation from an immigration lawyer
It’s seldom advisable to act as a lone ranger to navigate the maze of the H-1B visa procedure. Proper guidance from experienced H-1B lawyers in the U.S. can significantly improvise your odds of landing this work visa. Immigration attorneys are aware of the ins and outs of the system and can support you throughout the entire petition process.
A final note
The H1-B visa application and approval process might sound like an arduous mission to accomplish. But with proper planning, research, and consultation, it can be relatively stress-free and straightforward. The above tips have already benefited countless H-1B applicants, and you can leverage an extra edge by implementing them yourself.
Richard Herman is a nationally renowned immigration lawyer, author, and activist. He has dedicated his life to advocating for immigrants and helping change the conversation on immigration. He is the founder of the Herman Legal Group, an immigration law firm launched in 1995 and recognized in U.S. World News & Report’s “Best Law Firms in America.” He is also the co-author of the acclaimed book Immigrant, Inc.: Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy. Richard’s poignant commentary has been sought out by many national media outlets, including The New York Times, USA Today, BusinessWeek, and Forbes.