The U.S. immigration system for professional employees and their dependents is notoriously complicated and time sensitive. H-1B visas offer temporary, nonimmigrant status to foreign nationals with a current job offer for a skilled position in the United States. The process of petitioning for an H-1B employee can be complicated for a number of reasons. First, there is a limit, or “cap,” on the number of H-1B visas available to most employers (with some notable exceptions, like academic institutions). Second, the application process involves applying in a lottery for the limited visas available. Most H-1B visa spots are filled up on the first day that the lottery opens, typically around April 1st of each year.
Employees who are able to secure their place in the visa lottery or secure a job offer from a cap-exempt employer may be eligible to include their dependent spouse and/or children on their status as H-4 derivatives. These H-4 derivatives may be entitled to certain benefits like employment authorization (“work permit”) or attending school in the United States.
Prospective applicants should consider a variety of employment opportunities that fit their skill set, and prospective employers and employees alike will benefit from an in-depth consultation with a skilled immigration attorney to help them navigate the timing, procedural requirements, and financial requirements of the process.
Premium processing (link to premium processing page) may be available to some applicants, which expedites the decision to 15 days. Typical USCIS processing times can vary from a couple of months to the better part of a year, so premium processing can be ideal in situations where prospective employees need to be able to receive their visa and get settled in the United States before a target start date for employment.