What is an H-1B visa?
Start from the premise that all people who work in the United States need to be authorized to do so. Most of us take that for granted; by being born in this country we are automatically allowed to work here by nature of our citizenship. This is not the case for most foreign nationals. For them, there is most commonly a process that they need to go through in order to obtain work authority in the United States. That process might entail a visa application or a green card application, or eventually both; and the process may occur overseas or here in the United States, or it might entail a combination of the two. The process to obtain work authority in this country is, at a minimum, complex and routinely convoluted, even when successful.
Available to businesses are a variety of classes of visas that can be obtained for foreign nationals for the purpose of having the foreign national work in this country. One type of business visa is the H-1B visa. This visa allows foreign nationals the ability to work up to 6 years in the country (more if a timely-filed green card application is pending) in a specialty occupation that requires a theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge. The foreign national must meet the minimum qualifications for such a specialty occupation, as demonstrated by obtaining a degree (or its equivalent in work experience) in the field of study required for entry into the specialized occupation. Think: Electrical Engineer, requiring a degree in electrical engineering; not Grocery Store Manager, degree preferred.
The H-1B visa is appropriate for bringing highly skilled workers, who have matching degrees, to work in jobs that require such highly skilled degrees. Increasingly, colleges and universities enroll foreign students seeking STEM degrees, putting them squarely on the radar for businesses who need to recruit engineers, scientists, doctors and others with specialized degrees and skills in highly technical fields.
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