The H-1B category is designated for individuals coming to the US to work in a specialty occupation on a temporary basis. H-1B is not classified as an immigrant visa category, although many nonimmigrants use the status as a stepping stone to permanent residency.
An individual may spend a total cumulative period of six years in the H-1B category. An individual may, however, be eligible to obtain another six-year period if he/she spends a total of one year outside the US while not in H-1B status.
The H-1B process is more complex than other immigration status, and the processing time is long and inflexible. Workers should allow at least 8 months for completion of the process and should be aware of the fees associated with applying for H-1B status.
Steps to Obtaining H-1B
Step 1: Contact Hiring Department
The H-1B application process must start with the hiring department. Discuss with the hiring department whether they support sponsoring your H-1B status.
Step 2: Establish Specialized Occupation
When applying for H-1B visa status, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center must first establish that you will be working temporarily at the Medical Center in a specialized occupation. International Services will work with the hiring department to make sure that the appropriate documentation is collected.
Step 4: Petition Filed
Once the H-1B petition is complete, International Services will send the petition to Immigration. In approximately 10-14 days after the petition is received by Immigration, International Services should receive an official receipt notice providing a case number.
Step 5: Track Case Online
Once workers receive their case number from International Services, they may monitor their case online.
Step 6: Notification of Application Outcome
The Office of International Services will send an email notice to the worker as soon the Immigration approval notice (Form I-797) arrives.
Maintaining or Extending Status
H-1B status is like a contract, and it is specific to one employer and a range of dates as listed on the I-797 approval notice. In order to remain in legal H-1B status, the worker must maintain each element of the original application including:
- Work location
- Appointment title
- Field of work
- Job duties
- Other conditions
If the hiring department wants to change any of these conditions, they must consult with International Services first. In some cases, a new H-1B application and fees are required to make changes in the employment.
Workers currently employed at the Medical Center in H-1B status who plan to remain at the Medical Center in the same position and extend their status are responsible to contact their department administrator eight months prior to the end date of their current H-1B status.
In H-1B processing, each application — including extensions — repeats all steps of the H-1B process each time beginning with obtaining a Department of Labor prevailing wage. Only after the Office of International Services has completed the Department of Labor process is it possible to file the H-1B extension with USCIS. Currently there is no expedited Premium Processing for the Department of Labor part of the process.
Ending of Your H-1B Status
When your employment is terminated, your H-1B status will automatically terminate. At this time, you will be required to depart the U.S. immediately. Workers should be aware that there is no H-1B status grace period following termination of employment at the Medical Center.