At a time in our history where companies are operating within a greater global footprint - and a worldwide pandemic has ushered in a “great resignation” unlike any we’ve experienced - companies throughout the U.S. are becoming increasingly interested in H-1B visa sponsorship. If you often find yourself in a place where you have more open positions than you do qualified applicants and need to expand your recruitment footprint, then the H-1B visa sponsorship category might be an opportunity worth exploring. If you just want to know what H1-B sponsorship is or you’re looking to learn how to sponsor an H-1B visa applicant, then you’ve come to the right place. Before we dive in to the timeline, process and requirements for a company to sponsor H-1B applicants, let’s clarify what the H1-B visa is and who it’s for.
If you look back to a recent blog we wrote titled “H-1B Visa vs O-1 Visa: Which One Is Better?” you’ll get a clear understanding of what the H-1B visa is and why it’s attractive to U.S. based companies looking to expand their workforce with qualified, passionate people. In essence, the H-1B visa sponsorship process is designed to allow U.S. based businesses and employers to hire foreign workers in roles deemed “specialty occupations.” These unique positions may be quite similar to positions held by existing workers who are U.S. citizens, but in order for foreign professionals to qualify for these roles, they must be eligible for sponsorship. In the very least, these foreign professionals must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in or it's equivalent from an accredited university. The degree must also be in the same field as the position that they hope to be sponsored for. Foreign professionals with graduate level education (or higher) can also participate in this visa category.
So for those of you interested in sponsoring a foreign professional for employment in the U.S., let’s go over the steps you must follow to sponsor an H-1B visa applicant.
Effective as of 2020, the requirements for a company to sponsor H-1B visa applicants are as follows:
- The USCIS implemented an electronic registration system, requiring employers to create an online account and pay an initiation fee before petitioning for employee sponsorship.
- Once you’ve created an online account and submitted an application through the electronic registration system, you also need to submit a Labor Condition Application to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Application Gateway (FLAG) system.
- Along with this application submission, you must document and report what the anticipated wages and working conditions will be for the future employee. All current U.S. employees must be notified about the potential employment of an H-1B visa holder.
- After you’ve submitted your Labor Condition Application to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Foreign Labor Application Gateway system, you’ll be notified of your registration’s approval with the USCIS.
- Once approved, file your I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker form, along with any required supporting documents and application fees.
Although the requirements of H-1B visa sponsorship are straightforward and the benefits of hiring a foreign worker under this visa category are clear, it’s important to note that this visa category does come with obstacles. First, unlike some nonimmigant work visa categories: the H-1B category has a cap. Second, the registration period for this visa category is a relatively short window of time and it falls early in the year - usually beginning around the first week of March.
The H-1B visa category limits how many individual visas are granted each year. The regular cap for 2021 was 65,000 selected petitions, with an additional 20,000 petitions selected from applicants holding a graduate degree from an accredited university. If the volume of petitions exceeds the cap quota, than a lottery will be conducted to determine which applicants are selected for the available visas.
Because the petition cap is consistently exceeded year over year, complete and accurate applications are of the utmost importance. Only select organizations are exempt from the restrictions and rules of the H-1B visa cap:
- Institutions of higher education.
- Non-profit organizations.
- Non-profit research firms.
- Government agencies.
Although the organizations listed above are exempt from the H-1B visa cap, it’s still imperative that all eligibility requirements are met, as the validity of one’s petition will still be subject to the qualifying criteria.
H-1B visa sponsorship can be a great opportunity for potential employees and U.S. based employers alike, so if you find that sponsoring employee H-1B visas is something you’d be interested in learning more about, we invite you to reach out. Our experts are ready to help you determine eligibility, inform you of any upcoming deadlines and initiate the process of sponsoring foreign professionals through the H-1B visa category.