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Understand the

H-1B Basics

The H-1B visa is one of the most popular and important U.S. visas. Learn about the H-1B, whether you may qualify, and how to apply

On this page:

  • An overview of the H-1B 

  • Discussion of the pages in the section, H-1B basics


In the thirty one years since its creation as part of the 1990 Immigration Act, the H-1B employment-based visa has: enabled U.S. companies to compete globally; provided opportunities for foreign workers; and has led to the creation of jobs for U.S. citizens at a rate of 1.83 jobs per approved visa (source). Learn more about the impact of H-1B workers.

Simply put, the approval of your H-1B visa doesn't just help you - it leads to a cascade of benefits for your employer, social programs, employment in the U.S., and other economic and cultural benefits. That's something to feel good about!

Among companies and job applicants, the H-1B visa is extremely popular. It is so popular in fact, that its statutory limit (the H-1B visa cap) is often met within a few days of when employers can petition for a visa. This is because the demand for H-1B visas exceeds the limit of 65,000 visas along with an additional 20,000 for foreign professionals who have a graduate degree from a U.S. institution of higher learning (8 U.S.C. §§ 1184(g)(1)(A)(vii) & (g)(5)(C)).  In the history, definition, and stats section, we discuss how this cap works and what it means for a position to be cap-exempt.

As of the USCIS's most recent public estimate (2019), there are approximately 583,420 workers currently authorized to work in the U.S. on H-1B visas (source). To become authorized to work in the U.S. a company (called a petitioner) must petition to hire an employee (a beneficiary) in a role that qualifies as a specialty occupation, or one of the other two categories aligned to the H-1B. Learn more about the H-1B registration and application process.

Common job categories relate to STEM disciplines, business, or other areas that require a specialized bachelors degree as a minimum entry requirement. You can learn about some of the top employers, states, and industries of H-1B beneficiaries in our analysis of each of the approved H-1Bs approved in 2019 (2020 coming soon).

Did you know that Amazon, Google, TATA Consultancy, Microsoft and other individual companies hired more employees on H-1Bs than most states?

In the pages of this section, we provide tools that can help you understand the H-1B at a general level and also as it relates to your path in applying for this visa.

Key topics in H-1B basics

  • Do I qualify?: H-1B visas are primarily for specialty occupations, which require a bachelor's degree or above.  Based on your academic background, learn on what basis you may qualify and what to do if you don't qualify yet.

  • H-1B registration process. Understand the basic process of applying for an H-1B. Understand how the U.S. seeks to protect U.S. workers.

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