Q: How many H-1B visas are available each year?
A: There are a total of 65,000 H-1B specialty occupation visas available each year. Out of that number, 6,500 are set aside for nationals of Chile and Singapore and the rest are considered available for the general population. Any unused H-1B visas out of the Chile and Singapore quota are added to the general quota for the following year. There are also an additional 20,000 for people who have earned a masters or higher degree from a U.S. university.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not publish the number of unused Chile and Singapore visas, so it’s actually impossible to know how many H-1B visas are available for the general population. And while the USCIS does occasionally publish the number of petitions they have received, they do not say how many spots are left in the quota — so it’s extremely important to submit your petition correctly and on time.
The USCIS begins accepting H-1B petitions for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 on April 1, 2015 and petitions must be correctly filed and received by the government as soon as possible. The past two years, the quota numbers were met within five days. In preparation for April 1, immigration attorney Sweta Khandelwal put together these videos to explain the basics of the H-1B visa, plus what you need to know about the H-1B visa quota and cap for FY 2016.
H-1B visas: The basics
- The H-1B visa allows a foreign national to work in the U.S. for a U.S. company in a specialty occupation. Specialty occupations are defined as those that require at least a bachelor’s degree. Examples include lawyers, doctors, engineers, accountants.
- The candidate is required to have a degree equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree, or equivalent work experience. Three years of work experience is equivalent to 1 year of college education.
- The H-1B visa lasts for six years. After working for six years, the visa-holder must leave the U.S. for at least one year before they can reenter the U.S. on the H-1B visa. However, if the person’s employment-based green card is pending, it is possible to extend the H-1B visa in increments of one year or three years.
- For those applying April 1, 2015 for FY 2016, the earliest start-work date will be October 1, 2015.
The 2016 H-1B quota and H-1B cap
- There are a total of 65,000 H-1B specialty occupation visas available each year.
- 6,500 are set aside for nationals of Chile and Singapore. Any unused H-1B visas out of the Chile and Singapore quota are added to the general quota for the following year.
- There are an additional 20,000 visas available for people who have earned a masters or higher degree from a U.S. university.
Learn more about H-1B visas
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