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H-1 visas are popular because they can facilitate many things.
Many students enter the country on an F-1 Student Visa, and then work for a year under Optional Practical Training (OPT). While doing that, they find a potential employer who'll hire them if they have an H-1B visa. They can then apply for that visa before the OPT time runs out, and this enables them to remain in the U.S.
These last for six years maximum, including all the extensions. You can apply for a Green Card while you're on the H-1B visa, but don't wait until the last minute. If your Green Card application is delayed for any reason, your visa time could run out.
Who can get an H-1 visa:
You must be coming to the U.S. to work for only a temporary time period. Your job must be defined as a temporary one, and you must be intending to stay here only temporarily, although you're not required to maintain a home in another country.
To qualify as having a Specialty Occupation, you must have:
American equivalency to degrees from other countries is determined by Credential Evaluation Firms. It costs about $200, and is usually completed in one or two days. If you have a great deal of experience but no degree, you can exchange three years of experience for a year of training or education. So if you have no university education, but have twelve years of experience, that could be considered equivalent to a four-year degree.
There are some complications and exceptions though, so it would be wise to consult an immigration lawyer before making any assumptions. For instance, your experience has to be of exactly the right specialized type. The equivalency standards have been made stricter in recent years.
Before 2003, there was a cap of 195,000 visas that could be issued per year. That cap has been lowered to just 65,000 per year. However, if these reserved visas are not used, then they are made available in the next fiscal year to applicants from other countries. Thus the number of H-1B visas issued each year is significantly more than the 65,000 cap, with 117,409 having been issued in 2010.But there are H-1B visas that don't count for that quota, such as:
Some examples of Specialty Occupations:
There are many others, and this whole topic of H-1 visas is full of exceptions and complications. Be sure to consult an immigration lawyer before getting yourself involved in something that might block you from entering the U.S.
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