The Struggle is Real: H-1B Visa Resources & Requirements

H-1B Visa, Visa Requirements, Business Travel

It’s part of a brotherhood, sisterhood or personhood if you will. As business leaders or HR professional who is seasoned in the nightmare that is the H-1B process, we nod and shake our heads saying we’ve been there.

Many of us have shared and certainly don’t wish to relive those painful experiences that one encounters as part of the H-1B visa process. Those that are survivors all have a visa and immigration story to share. Maybe it’s a horror story of communicating with a frantic candidate or their loved one. It might be a story about the time you realized in hopefully minutes before submitting your application, that you forget to one box to check. Crisis averted. Your story might be one of the agonizing challenges of collecting and organizing the correct paperwork especially when you factor in time zones and languages.

These stories unify practitioners in solitary. They are a form of a sanity check reminding us that we are certainly not alone. Moreover, 70 percent of respondents from a recent SHRM Survey—and 96 percent of large employers with at least 20,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees—said the ability to obtain visas in a timely, predictable and flexible manner is critical to their organization’s business objectives and yet most of us can say that our experiences with the H-1B visa process haven’t been sunshine and roses. To put it another way, the United States work visa and immigration process for H1-B Visas are an absolute nightmare.

H-1 Visa Requirements

The H1B visa is a temporary or non-immigrant “specialty occupation” US visa, which means the holder is employed in a position that requires specialized skills or knowledge.

Jobs that suit the H1B visa typically need a university degree or equivalent (which can mean 3 years’ work experience for each year that would normally be spent at university). The position should be one that would normally require that level of experience. The H-1B is valid for three years, with one possible additional three-year extension, making six years’ maximum stay in total. Any H-1B visa application must be sponsored by a valid company. So the individual must have an offer of work, education, or internship prior to submitting the application.

Some (but not all) speciality fields for visas:

  • Accountancy
  • Architecture
  • Computer Programming
  • Engineering
  • Business Management
  • Journalism
  • Modeling
  • Nursing
  • Research
  • Sciences
  • Theology

H-1B Visa Solutions for Employers

It’s obvious the applications outweigh the number of awarded Visas. That means the challenge of finding, engaging and hiring native talent will be a long term concern for  your growing organization especially when experts predict that the needs for STEM workers isn’t slowing down anytime soon. So what’s an employer looking for STEM and engineering talent to do?

  • Go it alone. As I mentioned, the visa application process is a tricky one. There are horror stories abound, but it can be done. Just be prepared to join the sisterhood and be prepared at the next your peers and colleagues a round at the next happy hour so that you may tell your visa application tale.
  • Work with an immigration attorney. The submission process is very specific, complex and involved. If a form is missing a single checkbox or piece of information, the visa application is not considered. This is huge loss in terms of the opportunity cost for obtaining top talent not to mention the application submission fees. That same SHRM survey, revealed that the average employer spends $506,972 on this Visa submission process.
  • Create a STEM engineering training program. Build and engage local talent in different areas of the country, at experience levels or through internship and apprentice programs. Bonus points if your STEM engineering training programs aligns with your company’s diversity initiatives and seeks to employ women and minorities. This is especially important in tech and also if you are an Affirmative Action Employer.

  • Submit multiple candidates. This strategy is one that many large employers favor and is often referred to as stuffing the ballot box. The more candidates and submissions to send, the more likely one of your applications will be accepted. This strategy does not come cheap. Large organizations spend between $1.7 million to $6 million to employ their top engineering talent.
  • Open offices in other countries. Several of my startup founder friends have engineering offices in Poland and Mexico. A strategy like this seems simple, but it is not. There are country specific employment and business laws that require business to adhere to and finding that information can be tricky especially if you, or someone at your company is responsible for gathering this critical information.

The short answer is that there is no silver bullet when it comes to navigating the H-1B visa submission process.. However, I believe ia creative combination of the five suggestions are needed to turn those horror stories into happy endings.

It’s times like these I wish I would have considered engineering school instead of my liberal arts degree.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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