H-1B Professionals

If US employers need to hire aliens to perform specialty work, then employers need to get a H1B visa for such aliens. H1B allows the alien worker to work in the United States for up to six years (initial maximum three years plus extension).

To qualify for H1B, the position must be of a "specialty occupation" which requires attainment of a Bachelor's or higher degree as a minimum for entry into the occupation, and the alien workers must possess required degree, or a combination of education and work experience equivalent to that degree.

Based on AC21 enacted in 2002, extension beyond six-year limit is available now as long alien’s situation meets either of the conditions: first, H-1B alien has an approved I-140 petition and otherwise is eligible for I-485 petition except for the unavailability of an immigrant visa because of the quota limit; second, H-1B alien has a pending labor certification petition or I-140 petition for at least 365 days.

On December 8, 2004, FY 2005 Omnibus Appropriations Bill was entered into law by President Bush. The key features of this new law are summarized as the following: first, creating an exemption of certain aliens who earned a Master’s or higher degree from a US institution or higher education. This exemption is capped at 20,000 per fiscal year. Second, employer must pay 100% of the prevailing wage, and DOL will provide 4 levels of wages instead of 2 levels. Third, raising the fee for each H-1B petition from $1,000 to $1,500 permanently (employers with no more than 25 full-time employees will only be responsible for ? of the fee amount). Fourth, creating a new $500 fraud fee for either an initial petition for an H-1B or L visa petition or for a change of status petition. Except first feature, all others three features related to fee changes take effect immediately.

On Aug. 13, 2010, President Obama signed into Public Law 111-230, which contains provisions to increase certain H-1B and L-1 petition fees. Effective immediately, Public Law 111-230 requires the submission of an additional fee of $2,000 for certain H-1B petitions and $2,250 for certain L-1A and L-1B petitions postmarked on or after Aug. 14, 2010, and will remain in effect through Sept. 30, 2014.

These additional fees apply to petitioners who employ 50 or more employees in the United States with more than 50 percent of its employees in the United States in H-1B or L (including L-1A, L-1B and L-2) nonimmigrant status. Petitioners meeting these criteria must submit the fee with an H-1B or L-1 petition filed with USCIS.