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An H-1B visa allows you to hire an employee from another country into a specialized position for three to six years. — Getty Images

In September 2021, a record 4.4 million Americans voluntarily quit their jobs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While COVID-19 played a large role in what’s being called “The Great Resignation,” this gap in the workforce has been a growing economic problem in recent years.

One option for businesses struggling to contend with this massive labor shortage is sponsoring employees from abroad with a specialty occupation visa like H1-B.

Before you begin posting job openings overseas, there are a few important things to know about these specialty visas. Here’s what employers should consider if they want to obtain an H1-B visa for a future employee.

What is an H-1B visa?

Obtaining an H1-B visa will allow a United States company or employer to sponsor a nonimmigrant to come to the United States and work in what’s known as a “specialty occupation.”

To employ a foreign worker, you must petition for them to receive this visa. The person you’re looking to sponsor will need to meet the minimum educational requirements and they must have specialized skills that allow them to fulfill the duties of the position they’re applying for.

Who can use H1-B visas?

Nonimmigrants who are slated to work under a “specialty occupation” are eligible to be sponsored by their future employer for an H1-B visa. They must hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from an accredited university. Those with higher education can also receive this visa.

The employer must be able to show that the nonimmigrant is fully qualified to fulfill their job’s duties through their education and previous work experience if applicable. Industries that may benefit from hiring these specialized workers include the medical, business, engineering and technological industries, among others.

There are several different nonimmigrant visa programs that can allow your company to employ foreign nationals. However, an H1-B visa provides the most streamlined process to gain permanent resident status for a foreign employee through a concept known as “dual intent.”

What is the process for getting H1-B visas?

In 2020, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) began requiring employers to electronically register and pay a $10 fee before petitioning for employee sponsorship. Therefore, the first step in obtaining a visa is creating an online account with USCIS.

This account will allow you to then apply for an approved registration through USCIS’s online registration system for the annual H1-B lottery. Through the newly created company account, submit an application to see if your company is qualified to submit a completed H1-B petition for the prospective worker.

In addition to an application through USCIS, you must also fill out and submit a Labor Condition Application (LCA) to the Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG) system. It’s imperative to document and submit the wages applicable to the future employee and what their working conditions will be. You’re also required to notify your current U.S. employees about the potential employment of an H1-B visa holder.

After the LCA submission to FLAG, you’ll wait to receive a notice of registration approval from USCIS. Once you’ve received the approval from USCIS’s electronic system, you can fill out a complete I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and the supplemental forms. Finally, you’ll submit the petition along with the required fees.

How are H-1B visas different from other nonimmigrant visa programs?

There are several different nonimmigrant visa programs that can allow your company to employ foreign nationals. However, an H1-B visa provides the most streamlined process to gain permanent resident status for a foreign employee through a concept known as “dual intent.”

“Dual intent” means that the foreign national is maintaining their H1-B visa with the intent to stay permanently in the U.S. Typically, an employee is able to work for an employer on an H1-B visa for up to six years. Then, they must leave the U.S. for a year before applying for another H1-B visa. However, if an employer wants to employ them on a permanent basis, they can extend their visa until the employee is able to receive a green card.

To learn more about obtaining H1-B visas for future employees, read this guide from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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Published December 08, 2020