Individuals who wish to work temporarily in the United States must hold a nonimmigrant visa specified for the type of work being performed and for the purpose of travel to the United States. Various categories (classifications) of nonimmigrant visa are available to individuals to work temporarily in the United States.
Employers in the United States may employ foreign nationals in specialty occupations pursuant to H-1B visa status.
A “Specialty Occupation” is defined as requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge in a field of human endeavor, including, but not limited to, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialties, theology, and the arts. A specialty occupation requires the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent (at a minimum). The foreign national worker must possess at least a bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent) and state licensure if required in the occupation. H-1B nonimmigrant visa authorization is limited to the employment position described in the H-1B petition and the petitioning employer.
Although it is a nonimmigrant visa category, H-1B visa is one of the few visa categories recognized as “dual intent.” Dual intent means an intention to immigrate (pursue permanent resident status) at some time in the future while legally maintaining a nonimmigrant status.
The employment-based immigration process to obtain permanent residence (a green card) can take many years for foreign nationals from certain countries (e.g. India, the Philippines, and China). Consequently, many foreign nationals must renew their H-1B visas in one (1) year or three (3) year increments to continue their legal status while their permanent residence (green card) application is pending.
Spouses and unmarried minor children of the H-1B visa holder may obtain H-4 visas to reside and study in the United States; however, they are not eligible to work in this visa classification.