H-1B Visa Documents

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.

Eligible positions

WSU may sponsor candidates who meet all requirements for positions that are:

  • Academic teaching and/or research faculty positions
  • Full-time
  • 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.

If your visa application is denied, explore the reasons for denial. Find out if you might be allowed a waiver of ineligibility.

Traveling into the U.S. for H-1B employment

Before departing from your country, you will need to:

  1. Receive your H-1B approval notice from International Student and Scholar Services
  2. Schedule an H-1B interview with the U.S. embassy or consulate
    Do not schedule your interview until you have received your approval notice
  3. Secure a valid H-1B visa and other required entry documents
    (Canadian citizens are exempt from the H-1B visa requirement)
  4. 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

Guidelines for current H-1B workers

If you are already working under an H-1B visa, be sure to follow guidelines to maintain your lawful visa status. Your H-1B status will affect your ability to gain an H-1B extension or change employers, as well as any future plans to apply for a U.S. Green Card.

Changes to your H-1B visa

If you are currently working at WSU in H-1B status, there are circumstances under which you may need to make a change to your visa.

  • Extending your stay
  • Changes to your employment terms and conditions
  • Change of employer
  • Working for a second employer concurrently

Follow the proper procedures to implement the change.