The H-1B is the most popular visa option for international students and graduates who wish to stay and work in the US, and there are good reasons for it to be the preferred visa for many. If you are on an H-1B visa or are an employer sponsoring H-1B visa holders, keep reading to learn how to get the most out of the visa’s benefits.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that permits skilled international workers to be employed by US employers. Due to the popularity of these visas, there is a yearly cap or limit on the number that can be issued. Only 14% of H-1B registrations were selected in the lottery in 2023. To avoid the lottery, you can apply for jobs with H-1B cap-exempt employers. Cap-exempt H-1B employers and visa holders enjoy the same benefits as those who are subject to the lottery.
Benefits of the H-1B visa
H-1B visas are employer-sponsored. That means the employer must apply for the H-1B lottery, submit the H-1B petition, and pay the H-1B visa fees on behalf of the international worker they are sponsoring. Why do employers go through all this effort? Because there are many benefits to the H-1B visa for employers as well as for the visa holders themselves, and even for their families.
H-1B Benefits for employers
- Increases the talent pool: Some industries in the US such as health services and hospitality are facing significant labor shortages. The H-1B visa program allows companies to hire the best of the best no matter where they are from and helps to alleviate labor shortages through its focus on specialized skilled workers.
- Diversifies the workforce: Research shows that a more diverse workforce can increase innovation and global competitiveness which can bring more success to a business. Hiring multilingual workers also allows companies to tap into non-English speaking markets.
Benefits for H-1B visa holders
Some of the benefits of the H-1B visa are well-known while others may be new to visa holders.
- Six years of work authorization: The exact length of work authorization will be determined by the employee and the employer, but the H-1B can last up to six years. Usually, the initial visa is granted for three years and can be renewed for an additional three years.
- Guaranteed prevailing wages: H-1B visa holders are guaranteed a certain wage based on their experience level, education, job and area in the US. This is typically better pay than the average for domestic workers in similar roles.
- Flexibility to change jobs: H-1B holders can switch sponsoring employers relatively easily by asking the new employer to file an H-1B Change of Employer petition on their behalf. The worker can start their new job after they file the petition without having to wait for it to get approved.
- Dual intent status: The H-1B is a dual intent visa which means visa holders can apply for a green card while on a temporary visa. This provides a clear pathway to permanent residence if that is the long-term goal.
- Potential to extend visa beyond six years: H-1B holders with an approved form I-140 can apply for an H-1B extension while waiting for their turn to file a green card application. This is especially beneficial if you are from a country that has a long green card waiting time such as India or China, and you want to continue to work and live in the US.
Benefits for H-1B visa holders spouse and dependents
As another benefit to H-1B visa holders, their immediate families can legally come to the US with them. They are granted H-4 visas which come with the following benefits:
- Spouses can attend a college or university without additional authorization needed
- Children who are unmarried and under 21 years old can attend schools without a student visa
- Spouses can apply for work authorization using Form I-765
Currently, only certain spouses of H-1B visa holders can apply for employment authorization. Those who qualify can work for any US company once they receive their Employment Authorization Document (EAD). This is a great opportunity for spouses to earn income for their families and craft a quality life for themselves in the US.
Wrap up on H-1B benefits
If you are still on the fence about whether the H-1B visa is right for you, reflect on the benefits described in this article and how they align with your professional goals. Will sponsorship help your company grow or get you one step closer to permanent residency? The H-1B visa can be advantageous for employers, employees, and even their families, but it can also be difficult to secure the visa through the H-1B cap lottery due to high demand and it comes with steep fees. If you didn’t win the H-1B lottery or are looking for other options for immigration, check out this post on H-1B visa alternatives next.