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The H1B2 visa allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers for certain Department of Defense specialty occupations temporarily. H1B2 visas fit into the category of employment “H” visas because they are for non-immigrant workers.
What makes the H1B2 visa unique from other H1B visas?
H1B2 visas are specifically for temporary workers in specialty occupations related to the United States Department of Defense Cooperative Research and Development projects or Co-production projects. The project must be pursuant to an agreement issued by the United States Department of Defense with other government(s). A worker using a H1B2 visa cannot stay in the U.S. permanently.
Who qualifies for the H1B2 visa?
Individuals qualify for the H1B2 visa if they have a specified skill that is useful for a particular project managed under the United States Department of Defense. The H1B2 visa is not limited to individuals of certain nationalities or citizenship, unlike some other visas.
An individual must also have:
- minimum post-secondary education requirements and/or
- unrestricted certification, licensure, or registration for the specialty occupation.
What are the education requirements for the H1B2 visa?
The H1B2 visa is available only for individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher from an accredited college. Individuals with an education from a college or university outside of the United States that is equivalent to a bachelor’s degree or higher may need their credentials evaluated. In that case, after credentials are evaluated and confirmed, a report proving equivalency will be issued. Thus, the process for individuals who have a bachelor’s degree or higher from a United States college or university is easier than for those who do not. The individual must have a bachelor’s degree or higher that matches the work the individual would do with the Department of Defense. For example, an individual with a degree in architecture only qualifies for work with the Department of Defense involving architecture.
What forms of employment qualify under the H1B2 visa?
The H1B2 visas generally apply to positions of employment in connection with the United States Department of Defense. The sort of employment necessary under the H1B2 visa may vary, though it typically involves employment requiring specialized or extraordinary skill. Some examples include law, architecture, engineering, or medicine.
What is the process for obtaining the H1B2 visa?
The process for obtaining a H1B2 visa is largely similar to the process for obtaining a H1B visa. However, the employer is not required to submit a Labor Condition Application to the Department of Labor. H1B2 visas are subject to a cap and applicants are selected through a lottery system.
What if you are selected in the visa lottery?
Employers can file the H1B2 petition only IF their applicant is selected in the lottery. While selected applicants can begin filing the necessary forms on April 1st, the earliest an employer or potential employer can initiate the visa process is 6 months prior to the employment date stated on the petition or 6 months prior to the expiration date of your current H1B2 status.
The usual processing time for a H1B2 visa to become active is 60-90 days, though this can be expedited to at most 15 days if a $2,500 premium processing fee is paid. The premium processing fee is refunded if the processing time lasts longer than 15 days.
Employers or potential employers must complete a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker via form I-129. Your employer or potential employer must submit form I-129 and the certified Labor Condition Application to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as well as any fees and additional documentation that confirms your education level, certification, licensure, professional qualifications, employment or potential employment, and support from your employer or potential employer.
If you are already in the United States, after your form I-129 is approved, you can only begin working once your H1B2 visa status becomes active.
If you are not in the United States at the time you form I-129 is approved, you must take necessary steps to lawfully enter the United States so you may begin working. To do so, you must first complete Form DS-160 online, pay the application fee, and schedule an interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy in Chile or Singapore, as applicable.
At your interview, you must have certain documents with you, including:
- your passport
- a printed copy of the confirmation page from your completion of Form DS-160
- a copy of your approved form I-129 and I-797 approval (issued to you previously when your form I-129 application was approved)
- receipts proving you paid your application fees and a passport-sized photo of you that conforms with U.S. Department of State guidelines.
Additional requirements for the H1B2 visa
Besides fulfilling the necessary petition requirements identical to those for employing a H1B visa holder, any employer who wishes to employ a H1B2 visa holder must submit with the petition certain other documentation, including:
- A letter from the Department of Defense project manager for the particular project that verifies the visa applicant will be working on a cooperative research and development project or a coproduction project under a reciprocal government-to-government agreement administered by the Department of Defense. The letter does not need to include details about the specific project.
- A general description of the beneficiary’s duties on the particular project and the actual dates of the beneficiary’s employment on the project.
- A statement providing the names of noncitizens who are currently employed on the project in the United States and their dates of employment, as well as the names of noncitizens whose employment on the project ended within the past year.
How long are H1B2 visas valid?
One major difference between the H1B2 visa and other H visas is its length. The H1B2 visa is valid for up to ten years. The length of other visas is much shorter. After ten years, the H1B2 visa may be extended for another five years, for a total of a 15 year stay. After the five year extension, a H1B2 visa holder must spend at least one year outside of the United States before again being eligible for the H1B2 visa.
How much does it cost to apply for a H1B2 visa?
The cost of a H1B2 is in the thousands of dollars. Most if not all of this cost is generally paid by the employer, not the employee or potential employee.
Registration fee: It costs only $10 to register, and this is all that must be paid if the potential employee is not selected in the lottery.
Basic filing fee (form I-129): Any time the form I-129 is filed, it must be accompanied with a $460 filing fee. Thus, this fee applies to H1B2 transfer costs, refiling, amendments, and renewals.
American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act Training Fee: Employers with 1-25 full time employees must pay $750 under this act, while employers with 26 or more full time employees must pay $1,500. Nonprofits affiliated with educational institutions, government research organizations, and primary or secondary educational institutions are exempt from this fee.
Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee: New H1B2 applicants or those changing to a new employer are charged $500 so that USCIS can better detect fraudulent use of the H1B2 visa. This fee is not charged if an employee is extending his or her work with the same sponsoring employer.
Public Law 114-113 Fee: This is a $4,000 fee charged to companies that employ more than 50 workers where over half of the employees are on H1B2 or L1 status.
Premium Processing Fee: This is an optional $2,500 fee charged to those who wish to expedite the H1B1 visa process. It may be paid by either the employee or the employer. Payment of this fee and completion of form I-907 guarantees a 15-day processing time.