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H-1B Visas
H-1B is a non immigrant classification issued by USCIS to an alien to work in the United States for a temporary period in a specialty occupation or as a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability. A specialty occupation is one that requires a minimum of a U.S. bachelors degree or equivalent. Occupations in this category include software engineers, systems analysts, computer programmers, other computer professionals, engineers, architects, teachers, accountants, researchers, scientists, etc.

Currently, H-1B worldwide annual quota is 65,000 (out of which 6,800 are reserved for nationals of Singapore and Chile). In addition to this number, 20,000 H-1B visas are available for graduates of masters degree programs of US graduate schools.

The procedure to obtain an H1B classification is, briefly, as follows: The sponsoring US employer files an online Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor attesting to several items such as payment of prevailing wages for the H1-B position, working conditions, etc. The certified LCA is to be filed with Form I-129 and appropriate supplements along with applicable filing fees to the USCIS. Once the Petition is approved by USCIS, the alien can apply for an H-1B visa at a US Consulate abroad. If the alien is already in the US on another valid non-immigrant visa classification, a change of status can be applied for along with the H-1B Petition by marking the appropriate box(es) on the Form I129.

H-1B visas are usually granted for an initial period of three years, and can be extended for a further three years. After completion of six years on H1B classification, the alien must remain outside the US for one year before he/she can be given another H1B classification to enter the US again. However, extensions beyond a period of six years will be given if an application for Labor Certification or an employment-based immigrant visa petition/application for adjustment of status filed on behalf of such alien has been pending for a period of 365 days or more.

An alien on H1-B classification may work only for the sponsoring employer and only in the job classification/job duties listed on the Petition. If the H1-B alien wants to work for more than one US employer concurrently, each of such employers should have an H1-B Petition approved on behalf of the alien.

An alien may change employers (i.e., start working for a new employer) after the new employer files an approvable H1B Petition.

An alien on H-1B classification is permitted to travel outside the US and reenter during the validity period of the H-1B visa stamp on his/her passport.

An alien may start the process towards obtaining Lawful Permanent Residence in the US (Green Card) without affecting the H1B status.

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