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Difference between a US H1 and H-1B visa

If you’re considering working in the United States, understanding the differences between the US H1 and H-1B visas is crucial. Both visas grant employment authorization, but they have distinct purposes, eligibility criteria, and application processes. In this article, we will delve deep into the contrasts between the two visas and provide you with comprehensive information to guide your decision-making process.

What is the difference between a US H1 and H-1B visa?

The US H1 and H-1B visas may sound similar, but they cater to different categories of foreign workers. Let’s explore each visa’s unique features and the nuances that set them apart.

US H1 Visa

The US H1 visa, commonly known as the H1 work visa, is designed for non-immigrant workers who wish to work in specialty occupations. These occupations typically require a higher level of education and specialized knowledge. The H1 visa is employer-specific, meaning it is tied to a particular US employer. Let’s take a closer look at its characteristics:

Specialty Occupation Requirement: To be eligible for the US H1 visa, your intended job must fall under the category of a specialty occupation. This implies that the position requires theoretical and practical application of specialized knowledge and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.

  • Employer Sponsorship: Unlike some other work visas, the H1 visa requires an employer to sponsor your application. Your prospective employer must submit a petition to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your behalf.
  • Limited Duration: The H1 visa is initially granted for up to three years and can be extended for an additional three years, totaling a maximum of six years. However, certain exceptions apply, such as having an approved employment-based green card application in process.
  • Dual Intent: The H1 visa allows for “dual intent,” meaning you can simultaneously pursue permanent residency (a green card) while on an H1 visa.
  • Family Dependents: If you are granted an H1 visa, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old can apply for an H4 visa, allowing them to accompany you to the US.
  • Visa Cap Exempt: Some organizations and institutions, such as universities, research institutions, and nonprofit organizations, are exempt from the annual H1 visa cap, providing more flexibility for hiring foreign workers.

H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa is another non-immigrant work visa, but it differs from the H1 visa in several aspects. It is specifically designed for highly skilled foreign workers who have expertise in specialty occupations. Let’s explore the key characteristics of the H-1B visa:

  • Specialty Occupation Requirement: Like the H1 visa, the H-1B visa also requires the offered position to be in a specialty occupation that necessitates specialized knowledge and a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.
  • Annual Visa Cap: Unlike the H1 visa, the H-1B visa is subject to an annual cap on the number of available visas. This cap is set by the US Congress and can change each year, making the application process highly competitive.
  • Employer Sponsorship: Similar to the H1 visa, the H-1B visa requires an employer to sponsor your application through the submission of a petition to the USCIS.
  • Duration of Stay: The initial H-1B visa is granted for up to three years, with the possibility of a one-time extension for an additional three years, bringing the total duration to a maximum of six years.
  • H-4 Visa for Dependents: Like the H1 visa, the H-1B visa allows eligible family members (spouse and children under 21) to apply for H-4 visas to accompany the primary visa holder to the US.
  • Premium Processing Option: Employers have the option to use premium processing for H-1B visa applications, which expedites the processing time for a fee.
  • Labor Condition Application (LCA): Before filing an H-1B petition with the USCIS, employers must first obtain an approved LCA from the Department of Labor (DOL). This process ensures that the employment of a foreign worker will not adversely affect US workers’ wages and working conditions.

Key Differences Table

Let’s summarize the differences between the US H1 and H-1B visas in a table:

AspectUS H1 VisaH-1B Visa
TypeNon-immigrant work visaNon-immigrant work visa
Specialty OccupationRequiredRequired
Employer SponsorshipRequiredRequired
DurationUp to 3 years, extendable up to 6Up to 3 years, extendable up to 6
Dual IntentPermittedPermitted
Annual Visa CapNot subject to a capSubject to an annual cap
Premium ProcessingNot applicableAvailable for expedited processing
Labor Condition App.Not requiredRequired before filing the petition
Dependents (H-4 Visa)Eligible to applyEligible to apply

US H1 and H-1B Visa: Which One Should You Choose?

Choosing between the US H1 and H-1B visa depends on various factors, such as your educational background, intended occupation, employer sponsorship, and personal preferences. It’s crucial to evaluate your eligibility and long-term plans before making a decision. Here are some common scenarios to consider:

  • You Have a Specific Employer in Mind: If you already have a specific employer in the US willing to sponsor your visa, the H1 visa might be more suitable, especially if the employer is exempt from the H1 visa cap.
  • Highly Competitive Occupation: If your occupation falls under a highly competitive category and is subject to the annual H-1B visa cap, securing an H-1B visa could be more challenging. In such cases, the H1 visa might provide a more feasible option.
  • Advanced Degree Professionals: The H-1B visa has a special allocation of 20,000 visas for individuals with advanced degrees (Master’s or higher) from US institutions. If you meet this criterion, the H-1B visa may be more advantageous.
  • Long-term Immigration Plans: If you have long-term immigration plans and intend to pursue a green card, the H1 visa’s “dual intent” feature might be appealing, as it allows for concurrent green card processing.
  • Employer Preference: Some employers may have a preference for sponsoring H1 or H-1B visas based on their organizational structure or specific hiring practices.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I apply for both the H1 and H-1B visas simultaneously? 

Yes, you can apply for both visas if you meet the eligibility criteria for both. However, you must secure sponsorship from different employers for each visa type.

What happens if my H-1B visa application is not selected in the lottery? 

If your H-1B visa application is not selected in the annual lottery, you may explore alternative visa options or reapply in the following year.

Can my employer file a green card application while I am on an H1 or H-1B visa?

Yes, both H1 and H-1B visa holders can have their employers initiate the green card application process while they are on the respective visas.

Are there any countries excluded from the H1 and H-1B visa eligibility? 

No, the US H1 and H-1B visas are available to qualified applicants from all countries, provided they meet the eligibility requirements.

Can I extend my H-1B visa beyond the initial six years? 

In certain cases, you may be eligible for an H-1B visa extension beyond the initial six years if you are in the process of applying for or have an approved employment-based green card.

Can I change my employer while on an H1 or H-1B visa? 

Yes, you can change employers while on either visa type. However, your new employer must file a new H1 or H-1B visa petition on your behalf.

In conclusion, the US H1 and H-1B visas are both valuable options for foreign workers seeking employment in the United States. The H1 visa caters to specialty occupations, while the H-1B visa targets highly skilled professionals. When deciding between the two, consider factors such as your occupation, employer sponsorship, and long-term immigration goals.

Understanding the differences between these visas empowers you to make an informed decision, bringing you one step closer to realizing your American dream. Regardless of the visa you choose, always ensure that you meet the eligibility requirements and adhere to the appropriate application process.

Do you need a US H1 visa?

Contact our team of skilled immigration lawyers to discuss your visa and immigration needs.

Call us on +234 812 5505 986 or WhatsApp us at +234 818 1547 085 for immediate assistance with your situation. We are available to assist you in person, over the phone, or online.

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