If you're interested in filing paperwork for an H-1B visa -- a temporary work permit the U.S. government issues to highly skilled foreign workers -- make sure to submit your paperwork sooner rather than later. The application season begins April 1.
Here are five basic requirements to apply for an H-1B visa:
You must have an employer-employee relationship with the petitioning employer. In general, a valid employer-employee relationship is determined by the extent to which the U.S. employer has control over the H-1B worker -- namely, whether the U.S. employer can hire, pay, fire, supervise, or otherwise control the work of the H-1B worker.
You have a "specialty occupation." H-1B visas are granted to foreign nationals who will work in the United States in a "specialty occupation." On a very general and basic level, you must meet two requirements. First, the job must require a specific bachelor's degree -- such as accounting or engineering -- or the equivalent in combined education and experience. Second, you (the foreign national employee) must have a relevant degree or the equivalent. Though it sounds straightforward, it can actually become pretty complicated.
Specific wage payments. Employers must pay H-1B employees a certain wage. Your employer will need to file a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor to certify that you will pay the sponsored H-1B employee the higher of the "actual wage" at your workplace or the "prevailing wage" in the industry, whichever is higher.
You must have an H-1B visa number. H-1B visas are capped at 65,000 visas each fiscal year, and they go quickly. You must have an H-1B visa number available at the time of filing the petition, unless the petition is exempt from the visa cap. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of workers with a U.S. master's degree or higher are exempt from the cap. Those employed by an institution of higher education, a nonprofit research organization, or a government research organization are also exempt from the cap.
You must apply for a visa/admission. Once your employer's Form I-129 petition has been approved, you must apply with the U.S. Department of State at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad for an H-1B visa (if a visa is required). You must then apply to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for admission to the United States in H-1B classification.
For additional guidance on the H-1B visa process, you might want to consult an experienced immigration attorney near you.