New imminent changes to the U.S. Government’s H1-B visa program has created confusion — and in some quarters, panic — about what may be on the horizon. To help separate fact from fiction, I’ll unravel some of the top H1-B visa myths for Czech and international travelers to the U.S.:
Myth: H1-B visas can be petitioned any time of year.
Truth: United States Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) sets a cap of 85,000 H1-B visas each year, and the petition filing period only runs from April 1 to October 1. However, if the aforementioned 85,000 cap is reached before October 1, no further petitions will be accepted until the following year.
Myth: Petitioners with a bachelor’s degree qualify for an H1-B visa.
Fact: It is not enough for petitioners to have a bachelor’s degree. The job they are offered must require a degree, and furthermore, the areas of specialization must match. For example, if the job offer requires a bachelor’s degree in computer science, then a petitioner must have this type of degree and not one in education or finance.
Myth: Petitioners must affirm to USCIS’s satisfaction that they will depart the U.S. when their H1-B visa expires.
Fact: Unlike other types of work visas, the H1-B visa program allows petitioners to have “dual intent,” which means that they can declare their intention (without obligation to follow-through) to apply for a Green Card while working and residing in the U.S.
Myth: Only large enterprises like Google and Apple can obtain the H1-B visa for their foreign employees.
Fact: While many big companies do avail themselves of the H1-B visa program, the truth is that any-sized company, provided that it is a U.S. entity and has been issued an Employer Identification Number by the Internal Revenue Service, can petition for an H-1B worker.
Myth: Once a petitioner is granted an H1-B visa, he or she may work for any employer in the U.S.
Fact: A petitioner may only work for the specific employer who filed the H1-B petition to hire them. If the petitioner wishes to work for another employer, then the new employer must file a petition per all prevailing rules and regulations.
Myth: H1-B petitioners cannot be fired like other employees.
Fact: Provided that no employment or other civil rights laws are breached, H1-B petitioners, can be fired at any time — just like any other employee. If this happens, then their H1-B visa status will be terminated. If they choose to return to their country (i.e. if they cannot find another job/employer as noted above), their ex-employer is responsible for paying their reasonable travel costs.
Myth: An H1-B petitioner must remain in the U.S. Leaving the country for vacation, or other purposes will invalidate their visa.
Fact: Petitioners may travel in/out of the U.S., provided they have a valid H1-B visa stamped in their passport.
To learn more about the H1-B visa program — and separate facts from fiction — contact a qualified and experienced H1-B attorney. Considering what’s at stake, it will certainly be time and money well spent for all involved: H1-B employers and H1-B employees alike.