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The U.S. government issues a limited number of employment-based non-immigrant work visas, called H-1B visas, to college-educated professionals or workers with equivalent experience who have a firm job offer with a U.S. company. If you are interested in working in the U.S. but do not yet have a firm job offer, we recommend you check out the careers section for further resources.

The H-1B visa (work visa) process is a three-step process:

(1) The applicant's employer (the petitioner) must file an "employer attestation" form (also known as a "labor condition application" or LCA) with the US Department of Labor (DOL) offering proof that the employer will be paying the "prevailing wage" for that position.

(2) Once the employer attestation application has been approved by the Department of Labor, the H-1B petitioner must file a petition with the Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS) including documentation of the candidate's qualifications.

(3) Once the petition is approved, the H-1B visa application can be filed.

Quota for FY 2004: 65,000
Length of Visa:
up to six years
Visa Extensions:
up to three years
(should apply for extension at least 45 days in advance of expiration of visa)
Length of Application Process: six weeks to five months

In order to qualify for an H-1B work visa you must:

(1) show that you will be working in a "specialty occupation" requiring the highly specialized knowledge normally acquired through a college education

(2) possess a bachelor's degree or work experience equivalent to a bachelor's degree (three years of work equals one year of college) for the job you will be performing in the U.S. For those with foreign degrees, an evaluation with an academic credential evaluation service may be required.

(3) show that your employer will be paying you the "prevailing wage" for that type of job in that particular geographical area

Note: Accompanying relatives of H-1B visa holders are eligible for H-4 visas. They may stay in the U.S. but not work there.

Items of interest to H-1B visa holders:

Changing Jobs: How the new law AC21 affects H-1B portability
President Clinton signs bill increasing number of H-1B visas
Changes in corporate structure - do I need to re-apply for an H-1B visa?


Accompanying Relative:
The spouse or child under the age of 21 of the holder of an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa, who is accompanying them to the US

Prevailing Wage:
A wage that is no more than five percent below the "weighted average" salary for a particular occupation. Information on particular jobs can be obtained at the employer's regional office of the Department of Labor.