How to get H-1B Visas in California
(8 C.F.R. § Sec. 214.2(h))

H-1B visas permit California companies to sponsor foreigners to work for them in the United States. In order to qualify for an H-1B visa, the foreigner has to have a specialized occupation requiring an undergraduate degree.

As "non-immigrant visas," H-1B visas last for no more than six (6) years. However, it may be possible for visa holders to adjust status to green card-holders and remain in the U.S. permanently.

In this article our Los Angeles "H-1B Visa" lawyers discuss specialized occupation visas in California. Click on a question to jump to the answer.

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H-1B visas are a type of "non-immigrant" visa that permits foreigners to work in the U.S. for up to 6 years.


1. Am I eligible for an H-1B visa in Los Angeles, California?

There are five prerequisites for H-1B visa eligibility:

  1. There must be an H-1B visa number available (the limit is 65,000 H-1B visas a year);
  2. The compensation for the U.S. job must be the actual or prevailing wage for the occupation (whichever is higher);
  3. The foreigner and U.S. employer have an employee-employer relationship;
  4. The U.S. job has a direct relation to the foreigner's college degrees; and
  5. The U.S job must be considered a "specialty occupation" (which means that the foreigner has to meet minimum degree requirements).

H-1B visa recipients frequently work in the areas of:

  • engineering
  • biotechnology
  • information technology
  • scientific research
  • law
  • finance

In California, such employers as Apple, Wipro Ltd., and Deloitte routinely sponsor H-1B visa workers.

H-1B visas versus EB visas

It is easier to obtain H-1B visas than EB-1 visas and EB-2 visas, which mandate that the foreigner have graduate degrees and/or renown in his/her field.

But it is harder to get H-1B visas than EB-3 visas and H-2B visas, which do not always require undergraduate degrees.

Unlike EB visas, H-1B visas are not an automatic gateway to getting legal permanent residence.

2. What is the application process for an H-1B visa?

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The first step is for the U.S. employer to file a Labor Condition Application to the Department of Labor. Afterwards, the employer submits an I-129 Form with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Assuming the I-129 petition gets approved, the foreigner receives instructions for finishing the H-1B visa application process. In many cases, the foreigner will need to go to the local U.S. consulate for a visa interview and to give biometrics (fingerprints).

3. How long does an H-1B visa last?

H-1B visas last three (3) years with a possible extension of another three (3) years.

4. What is the time frame for getting an H-1B visa?

It typically takes between three (3) and six (6) months to get an H-1B visa.

5. What is the cost for an H-1B visa?

$190 is the H-1B visa fee.

6. Can families accompany H-1B visa-holders to Los Angeles, California?

The following family members of an H-1B visa-holder may come with him/her to the U.S.:

  • spouse, and/or
  • unmarried children under 21

Note that family may not work in the U.S. unless they get employment visas.

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7. Can I become a legal permanent resident while on an H-1B visa?

Perhaps, if the U.S. employer agrees to sponsor the H-1B visa-holder to become a legal permanent resident.

8. What happens if I leave or lose my job while on an H-1B visa?

If an H-1B visa-holder quits and loses his/her job, he/she has three options:

  1. get another U.S. employer to sponsor him/her,
  2. change to another type of non-immigrant status, or
  3. leave the United States

9. Can I go to school while on an H-1B visa in Los Angeles, California?

Yes, most H-1B visa holders may go to school. However, the H-1B visa-holder must maintain the terms of his/her employment.

10. Do I have to stay in the U.S. on an H-1B visa?

Typically no. Most H-1B visa-holders may leave and return to the U.S. anytime prior to the visa expiring.

Under the current administration, however, foreign nationals can never be totally certain that the U.S. will allow them back in after they leave. H-1B visa-holders are advised travel with all the documents they showed Customs and Borders Protection when they initially came into the U.S. 

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Call our caring and skilled California immigration attorneys at (855) LAWFIRM for a FREE consultation.

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Do you need a work visa in California? Phone our California immigration attorneys at (855) LAWFIRM for a FREE phone meeting. We will investigate the matter to see if you qualify for a visa, and then we will help you through the visa application process so the process is as rapid and painless as possible.

Go to our California visa main page.

For foreigners seeking work in Nevada, see our article on H-1B visa lawyers in Nevada.

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