With incredible tech talent abroad and U.S. labor shortage in many fields, it's no wonder that many companies are exploring H-1B visa sponsorship. H-1B sponsorship is one way that U.S. companies can set themselves apart from competitors and hire international candidates.
Some companies sponsor H-1B visas for candidates outside the U.S. and support their transition into the U.S. Others target international students and immigrants already settled in the U.S. and working at other local companies. Regardless of the recruiting strategy, the H-1B sponsorship involves a few more steps than the hiring process for U.S. citizens.
If you're wondering whether to hire an employee on an H-1B or want to learn more about the nuances of the H-1B visa sponsorship process, read on. This H-1B guide for U.S. companies details the top things you should understand about the H-1B before moving forward.
10 Things to Know Before Sponsoring an H-1B Visa
1. Only certain candidates qualify
The H-1B is only available to qualified candidates. Candidates must have a job offer for a role that aligns with one of USCIS’s specialty occupations plus a degree (or substantial experience) related to their specialty occupation. Learn more about qualifying for the H-1B visa.
2. H-1B visa holders must be offered a prevailing wage
Before hiring a foreign worker on an H-1B, make sure that your company will pay the prevailing wage. Although all U.S. work visas require employers to pay foreign employees the local minimum wage, the H-1B is one of the few visas that require a higher prevailing wage. The H-1B prevailing wages vary based on role, experience level, and location. In general, it is the minimum wage that American workers would be paid for the same role with a similar background and city.
3. The process of hiring a candidate on their first H-1B is very different from the process of hiring an H-1B visa holder
If you’re looking to hire a foreign national who already has an H-1B, they’ll likely be able to begin working for your company fairly quickly. After filing an H-1B transfer petition with USCIS, your candidate can begin working in their new role, even before receiving an H-1B approval. The process of hiring someone on a new H-1B is very different. It involves going through the H-1B lottery in the spring, filing an LCA and H-1B petition, and then starting work in the fall.
4. New H-1B applicants must begin the process in the spring and can only start work in the fall
The time constraints associated with new H-1B employees make it difficult to hire quickly. Most new candidates must enter the H-1B lottery. The lottery happens each spring, and if you miss the two or three week period when the lottery is open, you have to wait until the following year. H-1B applicants who make it through the lottery and receive an H-1B approval can only begin work on the 1st of October.
5. New H-1B candidates must enter a visa lottery
The infamous H-1B lottery is a requirement for most new H-1B candidates (except candidates with job offers at cap-exempt employers). The lottery happens each year in March or April. A small percentage of H-1B lottery applicants are selected, and those who are not selected cannot proceed with the H-1B process. Applicants selected in the lottery need to file an LCA and an H-1B petition. If approved, they can change status or attend a consular appointment abroad before entering to start work at your company.
6. Candidates with a Master’s degree have a higher chance of getting picked in the H-1B lottery
There are essentially two rounds in the H-1B lottery. First, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) selects 65,000 individuals from the general pool of lottery registrations. After that initial selection, USCIS selects 20,000 individuals from the remaining candidates with a Master's degree. H-1B candidates with a Master's degree can be selected both times.
7. Some U.S. employers are cap-exempt
Some employers can sponsor a candidate’s H-1B without going through the H-1B lotteries, including certain:
- Government organizations
Connect with a U.S. immigration attorney to determine whether or not your organization qualifies as cap-exempt.
8. You must file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) before hiring on H-1B
Before hiring a new employee on an H-1B visa, you must file an LCA with the DOL. This application helps the U.S. government verify that your company is eligible to hire foreign workers, is willing to pay the prevailing wage, and will offer working conditions similar to those offered to U.S.-based employees.
9. The H-1B is not the only work visa option
Although the H-1B is the most well-known U.S. work visa, it's not the only option available to companies seeking to hire foreign talent. Other U.S. work visas include:
- O-1: A work visa for founders, key employees, researchers, artists, and athletes.
- L-1: A work visa that enables multinational companies to transfer certain employees to a U.S. office.
- E-2: An often overlooked visa that allows a candidate to invest in a U.S. company and then work for that U.S. company.
- E-3: A temporary work visa for Australian nationals.
- TN: A temporary work visa for Canadian and Mexican nationals.
- H-1B1: A temporary work visa for Singaporean and Chilean nationals.
10. H-1B is temporary, but there are options to sponsor a green card
Along with most other work visas, the H-1B is a temporary employment visa. The H-1B is generally valid for a maximum of 6 years (including extensions). However, many H-1B employers offer green card sponsorship to enable their employees to remain in the U.S. beyond the H-1B.