What are the Benefits of an H1B Visa?
The H1B visa allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers temporarily in specialty occupations. The H1B visa fits into the category of employment “H” visas because they are for non-immigrant workers. Because the H1B visa is available for non-immigrant workers, the visa ultimately benefits both employees and employers.
Living and Working in the United States
H1B visa holders are able to live and work in the United States for the duration of their visa. Though the H1B visa is not permanent, it offers foreign workers the opportunity to gain experience working in the United States for U.S. companies or organizations and to earn a United States salary.
Duration of Stay in the United States
Even though the H1B visa is temporary, it nonetheless allows individuals to live in the United States for a fairly lengthy amount of time. H1B visa holders are able to stay in the United States for an initial three years and, under typical circumstances, the visa can be extended after the first three years for an additional three years, totalling up to six years. A petition to extend may be submitted at most 6 months prior to the end of the first three year period.
It is possible that H1B visa holders can stay longer than six years in the U.S. if they file Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Workers or a Labor Certification Application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) 365 days prior to the completion of the usual six (6) year limit. The H1B visa can be extended from that point on a yearly basis.
Additionally, an H1B visa holder may also extend their visa if they are applying for an immigrant visa and have an approved Form I-140, but are waiting for their priority date to become current in order to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. H1B visa holders in this situation may have their visa extended in three (3) year intervals until their priority date becomes current, their Form I-485 is approved, and they are issued an immigrant visa.
Larger and Talented Applicant Pool
A major benefit of the H1B visa to employers is that it offers employers a wider selection of talented applicants available to be hired for jobs that require specialized knowledge. Employers must show, however, that they will treat the H1B visa holder the same as other qualified workers in its same geographic area with regard to wage, and that other employees will be unaffected by the H1B visa holder’s working conditions.
A wider variety of applicants also benefits employers by providing them with workers from all around the globe who have different cultural knowledge and background from U.S. workers. This can benefit U.S. employers in a global economy. Employers are additionally benefited by the H1B visa because it allows them to find and hire qualified employees even if there are no eligible workers in the employer’s local geographic area.
Portability (Changing Employers)
H1B visa holders are provided the flexibility and convenience of being able to “port” their H1B visa status. This means H1B visa holders may switch to a different employer during their stay in the United States without losing their H1B status. The new employer must file a new Labor Condition Application and petition on behalf of the H1B visa holder before the visa holder’s authorized period of stay expires.
Some non-immigrant visas do not allow applicants to have “dual intent,” which refers to an applicant’s intention to stay in the United States temporarily, or permanently. H1B visa holders are able to come to the United States in order to work and live temporarily even if they intend on applying for a Green Card at some point. The H1B visa holder’s intentions are not questioned, either at the time they apply for the H1B visa or a Green Card, and the H1B visa holder is not required to maintain a foreign residence that would otherwise prove their intention to eventually leave the United States.
Benefits of Employment
H1B visa holders enjoy the privilege of working in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and in some of the United States’ highest paying fields. Because the H1B visa is available to individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specialty occupation, the salaries and benefits for H1B eligible jobs are often quite generous.
Some employment benefits include health, life, disability, and other insurance plans; retirement and savings plans; cash bonuses; and stock options. The H1B worker’s employer must offer the H1B worker benefits on the same basis, and in accordance with the same criteria, as the benefits the employer provides to similarly employed U.S. workers.
H1B visa holders are also permitted to take time off from work without the risk of losing their H1B status due to absence; however, this does not necessarily mean that H1B visa holders can take lengthy periods of time off.
The H1B visa is also flexible when it comes to work hours and additional employment. An H1B visa holder may hold more than one H1B visa for separate employers, allowing them to work in more than one job while in the United States. H1B visa holders are additionally required to only work 50% of what is typically full-time for the industry of their specialty occupation. Generally, full-time in the United States is 40 hours a week; thus, an H1B visa holder may typically work only 20 hours a week without risking their visa status. Of course, 50% may be fewer than 20 hours per week, depending on the industry.
Employers are furthermore not permitted to treat H1B visa holders differently during times of slow business growth or a business downturn. This means that a worker’s H1B visa status cannot be an excuse for the employer to temporarily not pay the H1B employee or otherwise reduce their workload just because of their visa status. Just like U.S. workers, H1B visa holders must either be paid their usual salary during periods of slow business, or be terminated. Even though termination sounds scary, it’s a usual risk U.S. workers and H1B visa holders both face when working in business. Employers are prevented from taking advantage of H1B visa holders by giving them unpaid “time off” while still continuing to pay U.S. workers. Instead, H1B visa holders must be treated the same as U.S. workers.
Spouses and Dependents
The H1B visa allows the spouse and children of the H1B visa holder to join them in the United States during the duration of the visa. The spouse and children must apply for and receive an H4 visa in order to come to the United States with the H1B visa holder. Only unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible for the H4 visa. Under the H4 visa, spouses and dependants are not permitted to work in the United States, they must first receive work authorization. However, H4 family members can study in the United States without receiving another education visa.
Pathway to Citizenship
Due in part to dual intent, the H1B visa can be the first step to receiving citizenship. H1B visa holders can apply for legal permanent residency (Green Card) in the United States by applying for an immigrant visa. Employment-based immigrant (EB) visas are an excellent option for H1B visa holders who want to obtain lawful permanent residency status. After H1B visa holders transition to lawful permanent resident status, they can eventually apply for U.S. citizenship after five years of maintaining their green card. U.S. citizens enjoy numerous benefits that even lawful permanent residents do not have.