H-1B visa

The US H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine.

H-1B visa
The US H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine. Under the visa a US company can employ a foreign worker for up to six years.
Applying for a non-immigrant visa is generally quicker than applying for a US Green Card, therefore the H-1B visa is popular for companies wishing to bring in staff for long-term assignment in the US.

Visa cap 

Individuals are not able to apply for an H1B visa to allow them to work in the US. The employer must petition for entry of the employee. H1B visas are subject to annual numerical limits. US employers can begin applying for the H-1B visa six months before the actual start date of the visa. Employers can apply as soon as April 2, 2012 for the FY 2013 cap, but the beneficiary cannot start work until October 1, 2012.
Current immigration law allows for a total of 85,000 new H-1B visas to be made available each government fiscal year. This number includes 65,000 new H-1B visas issued for overseas workers in professional or specialty occupation positions, and an additional 20,000 visas available for those with an advanced degree from a US academic institution. Once the visa cap has been reached, USCIS will stop accepting H-1B petitions for FY 2013 and will not accept new applications until April 2013.


The US H1-B visa is designed to be used for staff in specialty occupations. The job must meet one of the following criteria to qualify as a specialty occupation: 
  • Have a minimum entry requirement of a Bachelor's or higher degree or its equivalent.
  • The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree.
  • The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position.
  • The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree.
For you to qualify to accept a job offer in a specialty occupation you must meet one of the following criteria: 
  • Have completed a US bachelor's or higher degree required by the specific specialty occupation from an accredited college or university.
  • Hold a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor's or higher degree in the specialty occupation.
  • Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification which authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation and be engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment.
  • Have education, training, or experience in the specialty that is equivalent to the completion of such a degree, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty. 
Positions that are not specialty occupations, or for which the candidate lacks the qualifications/experience for an H1B visa, may be filled using an H-2B visa. Also, applicants that are not eligible for H-1B visas may want to check out the L-1 visa. The L-1 visa a non-immigrant visa which allows companies operating both in the US and abroad to transfer certain classes of employee from its foreign operations to their US operations for up to seven years. The employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of your US company outside of the US for at least one year out of the last three years.

Visa length 

The H-1B visa is initially granted for up to three years, but may then be extended to a maximum of six years.
Even though the H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, it is one of the few US visa categories recognized as dual intent, meaning the H-1B visa holder can apply for and obtain a US Green Card while in the US on an H-1B visa. If you are still in the US on an H-1B visa and wish to remain in the US for more than six years, you can apply for permanent residency in the US to receive a Green Card. If you do not gain permanent residency prior to the expiration of your H-1B visa, then you must live outside the US for at least one year before reapplying for another H or L visa.

Family & Dependents

H-1B visa holders can bring their spouse and children under 21 years of age to the US under the H4 Visa category as dependents. An H4 Visa holder is allowed to remain in the US as long as the H-1B visa holder remains in legal status. While, an H4 visa holder is not eligible to work in the US, they may attend school, obtain a driver's license and open a bank account while in the US.

E-3 visa

What is the E-3 visa? 

The E-3 is a visa category issued to 'professional' workers. Typically an E-3 applicant will have at least a 4 year college degree, or equivalent professional experience, and will come to work in the field of their education or prior experience.At the moment E-3 visas are only available for Australian citizens.
An E-3 visa is a work permit issued by a US Consulate/Embassy to a professional  "alien"/foreign worker enabling him/her to work in the US temporarily. This visa is only available for Australians.There are other options available for those who wish to work in the United States temporarily, like getting an intra-company transfer visa (L1), or a business visa (B1), or even a green card. The H1B work permit visa is the most common one for non Australians.
For Australians the E-3 has many advantages over a H-1b.

Who is Eligible ? What is a 'professional'?

The E-3 work permit is issued to "professionals" who are working in a "professional capacity." "Professional" means that the worker must have at least a bachelor's degree or the equivalent in work experience. "Working in professional capacity" means that the person is coming to work in the US not to pursue a hobby or a past-time or for giving free advice or humanitarian service but to earn money/livelihood.

Common examples of professionals working in a professional capacity include engineers, teachers, lawyers, accountants, nurses, computer professionals, market research analysts, business analysts, economists, IT professionals such as programmers, systems analysts, database administrators; health care professionals, such as physical therapists and laboratory technicians, and variety of other types of professionals
NOTE: For every year of formal education lacking, three years of professional experience can be substituted.

Is an employer required?

The E-3 visa is tied to the employer. This means that you must have a sponsoring employer in order to apply.

What does your Employer have to certify ?

The employer has to certify that you will hired to fill a professional position. The employer will also have to certify that he will be paying you the 'prevailing wage' for the position. The prevailing wage must be determined from an objective wage survey of similarly employed professionals in the same geographic area as the one where you will be employed.

A Labor Condition Attestation must also be filed with and approved by the Regional Department of Labor (DOL) office. This application assures the DOL that the company would provide you with a fair salary and equal benefits as a US citizen. 
NOTE:  The Employer does NOT have to certify that he is unable to find similarly qualified US workers for the job offered. (To be contrasted with the Labor Certification process)

What is the application process?

A E-3 application is normally filed with a US consulate in Australia. If everything runs smoothly an E-3 can be obtained in a matter of weeks.

How long does the E-3 visa last?

The visa is issued in 2 year increments and can be extended for as long as the services of the professional worker are required.The Spouse and minor children of the E-3 principal also get E-3 visas. The spouse can work  and the children can attend school.
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