H-1B Visa Overview

Overview of H-1B Visas For Professionals and Bachelor's Degree Holders

The H-1B visa is a temporary non-immigration visa that permits aliens to remain and work in the United States for a specific employer that sponsored the petition. The visa is employer-specific and remains valid only for the period of time granted so long as the beneficiary remains employed by the sponsoring employer. This visa is reserved for specialty and professional occupations. Eligible positions are those that require at least a bachelor’s degree where the beneficiary also possesses a bachelor’s degree relevant to the job duties. Foreign Medical Graduates, also qualify for the H-1B visa. Generally, the H-1B visa is issued for a maximum of three (3) years and is renewable for a total of six years. Those H-1B holders who have applied for a green card that is in process for more than one year may obtain additional yearly extensions beyond the six years.

The H-1B visa is generally portable. An H-1B visa holder is permitted to change employers upon submitting a request with the Department of Labor and USCIS. Generally, under AC21, an H-1B visa holder may begin employment with a new employer upon obtaining an approved Labor Condition Application [ETA 9035] for the new position and employer even before the H-1B visa transfer petition is approved by USCIS. (Please note that when a labor condition application is filed, it is vital that an employer maintain a Public Access File).

In some instances, H-1B visa holders and those who are being sponsored for I-140 green cards by one employer may change employers while the green card petition is still pending and maintain their H-1B or green card status. In other words, the H-1B visa as well I-140 green card petitions are sometimes portable or transferrable to a different employer. As such, changing employers does not automatically mean that the green card application or H-1B visa terminate.

Recent News

  • 12-05-06-USCIS Issues New Guidance On Periods of Stay for H and L Visa Holders-Click here to read more.
  • 07-21-06-USCIS Releases New H Visa Cap Usage Figures-Click here to read more.
  • In a memorandum issued by USCIS on June 6, 2006, employees of organizations that are not ordinarily exempt from the H-1B cap may apply under the cap if they are placed to work in a location that qualifies as exempt. In other words, a non-exempt employer may apply for its employee under the cap if that employee's service will be performed at a qualifying institution. This clears the way for more H-1B potential applicants to receive H-1B visas under the cap.
  • Please click here to view the 2005 memorandum regarding USCIS issuing new guidelines on H-1B and I-140 green card portability.


The H-4 is a non-immigrant classification for dependents of H-1B visa holders.

For more information, please see our H-1B Frequently Asked Questions.