About the H-1B visa
The H-1B visa lets you work temporarily for a U.S. employer in a specialty occupation. To work for Washington State University (or any other U.S. employer) on an H-1B visa, you must meet the following requirements:
- Valid employer-employee relationship with your petitioning U.S. employer
- Job that qualifies as a “specialty occupation” by meeting at least 1 of these criteria:
- A bachelor’s degree or higher (or equivalent) is a minimum requirement
- The degree requirement is common for this position in the industry, or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by someone with at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field
- The employer normally requires a degree or equivalent for the position
- The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree
- “Specialty occupation” job that is related to your field of study
- Pay that is at least the actual or prevailing wage for your occupation, whichever is higher
H-1B status must be requested and filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by a U.S. employer. No foreign nationals can file H-1B themselves.
WSU may sponsor candidates who meet all requirements for positions that are:
- Academic teaching and/or research faculty positions
- Permanent or temporary (The H-1B visa limits you to a 6-year stay in the United States. Your sponsoring employer can request stays in 3-year increments.)
Each sponsorship application is open to subjective review by government agencies, so there is no guarantee of approval. No U.S. employer is obligated or required to sponsor a foreign national for an H-1B visa.
Alternatives to H-1B status
Other immigration statuses commonly used to employ foreign nationals in the United States include:
- F-1 students authorized for Optional Practical Training
- J-1 scholar or J-1 student Academic Training, however they cannot be a candidate for a tenure-track position
- TN temporary professional worker, available to Canadian and Mexican citizens only
- E-3 specialty worker, available to Australian citizens only
- H-1B1 specialty worker, available to Chilean and Singaporean citizens only
Obtaining an H-1B visa
To enter or reenter the United States as an H-1B worker, you must have a valid U.S. H-1B visa in your passport. Your accompanying dependents must each have an H-4 visa. Canadian citizens are exempted from the H-1B/H-4 visa requirement.
Where to apply
Apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate outside the United States. You cannot apply for an H-1B entry visa from within the United States.
Applying in your country of citizenship or last residence will result in the fastest processing time. Find out the typical wait time for a visa appointment and processing at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your area.
Be advised: Every time you apply for a U.S. visa, you may be subject to security checks that could take weeks to complete.
If you are from Iran, North Korea, Cuba, or Syria, you must be interviewed by a consular officer.
Documents needed to apply
- Original USCIS Form I-797 approval notice for your H-1B position
Contact International Student and Scholar Services at least 3 weeks prior to your scheduled departure date to request that your original USCIS approval notice be mailed to you.
- Completed visa application form
Include required photos, visa application fee, and any other documents to show your qualifications for your H-1B job.
- Copy of your most recent H-1B petition
International Student and Scholar Services can email you a copy if needed.
- Current original employment offer/confirmation/verification letter
This is a letter issued and signed by your hiring unit and printed on the hiring unit’s letterhead. It must specify your position title, job duties, and salary. Include your previous 2 months’ paystubs if you have been previously employed in H-1B status.
- Additional documents
Documents may be required by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer to establish your qualification as an H-1B worker.
USCIS provides detailed information about the application process.
Problems with approval of an H-1B petition
The vast majority of H-1B visa applications are approved. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that USCIS will approve yours. It is subject to a USCIS officer’s adjudication.
Among the most typical issues are the following:
- The offered position does not meet H-1B eligibility criteria.
- You did not possess the requisite qualifications before you received the job offer.
- The offered wage does not meet Department of Labor prevailing wage requirements.
- You have already reached the 6-year limit for a stay in the United States in H-1B status.
- You are subject to the 2-year home-country residence requirement.
Traveling into the U.S. for H-1B employment
Before departing from your country, you will need to:
- Receive your H-1B approval notice from International Student and Scholar Services
- Schedule an H-1B interview with the U.S. embassy or consulate
Do not schedule your interview until you have received your approval notice
- Secure a valid H-1B visa and other required entry documents
(Canadian citizens are exempt from the H-1B visa requirement)
- Make travel arrangements. Do not make travel reservations until you have your H-1B visa
At Port of Entry
- Enter the United States in H-1B status
You may arrive no earlier than 10 days before the start date printed on your USCIS H-1B approval notice and up to 10 days after the petition validity period. (Whether the 10-day post-petition period is granted is up to the discretion of the officer at port of entry.) You cannot be employed during either of these 10-day periods.
- Enter as an H-1B employee with H-1B documents, even if you are from a country in the visa waiver program
You will need your H1-B visa for employment in the United States. Do NOT enter as a visa waiver program participant.
- When the immigration officer returns your passport to you after inspection, check the entry stamp immediately
If there is a mistake (for example, if the authorized end date is earlier than the expiration date in your H-1B approval notice), ask the immigration officer to make the correction right away.
Immediately upon entry into the United States
- Print out your I-94 information
- Send the following documents to a WSU International Student and Scholar Services immigration advisor (Bryan Hall room 206)
- I-94 printout
- Your renewed passport (if applicable)
- H-1B visa (if applicable)
- Passport page with entry stamp showing H-1B status and the expiration date
- Original copy of your H-1B approval notice