Those of us who’ve worked in the tech industry in Massachusetts constantly hear about H-1B visas. Right now, as during the Internet buildup in the late 1990s, we can’t get enough software engineers, so we hire qualified foreign nationals if we can, often via H1-B visas. An H1-B is a type of nonimmigrant visa that allows for temporary residence in the U.S. to work.
In fact, an H1-B is one of numerous immigration classifications and visa categories for nonimmigrants, beginning with A-1 (Ambassador; public minister; career, diplomatic or consular officer, and members of immediate family) and ending with V-3 and TPS (Temporary Protected Status). H1-Bs are used for hiring foreign nationals who will be employed in a specialty occupation or as fashion models of distinguished merit and ability. Specialty occupation means one has at least a bachelor’s degree in an area of specialized knowledge, such as law, mathematics, theology or the arts, among others. The number of H1-B visas is subject to an annual cap established by Congress.
More details on H1-Bs and how to apply are available at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (UCIS) website. Tara L. Vance at Holland & Knight has written an article, Hiring Foreign Nationals Without the Benefit of H1-B Visas, that discusses them in further detail, along with B-1, C, D, E and L-1 visas.
By the way, UCIS has a considerable number of forms available on its website, including Form I-9, which lists the documents that establish identity and employment eligibility to work in the U.S. Technical tip for HR departments: Keep your Form I-9s in a separate folder, so only they-and not the other employment documents-are accessible during a search to determine employment eligibility.