The H-1B temporary worker visa is designated for individuals coming temporarily to the United States to perform services in a specialty occupation. A "specialty occupation" requires theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge along with a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Positions such as research scientist, post-doctoral fellow, Instructor or Professor in fields such as engineering, mathematics, management, physical science and computer science are all examples of jobs qualifying for H-1B status.
There is a limit to the number of aliens who may be issued an H-1B visa or otherwise be granted H-1B status. However, WPI, as an educational institution, is exempt from this limit. At WPI we do not process H-1B applications for staff positions. In very special situations and with the recommendation from Human Resources an exception can be made.
The H-1B process starts with an appointment from the Provost Office. After the individual accepts the appointment the Office of International Students and Scholars will start the process of filing the H-1B Petition with USCIS in Vermont. Step one is for the Office of International Students and Scholars to determine the "Prevailing Wage". This is done by filing a brief job description with the Division of Employment and Training in Boston. Once we have determined that the salary offered meets the prevailing wage requirement we file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor. Once the LCA is approved, we post it at WPI for 10 days to make public notification of the intent to hire an H-1B worker. While the LCA is posted, we prepare and file the H-1B Petition with USCIS in Vermont. Processing time will vary from about 2 months to 6 months depending on whether it is a new filing or filing for extension or transfer of employer. If time is important, we have the option of filing under Premium Processing, which requires an additional fee, but will get the application processed in about 2 weeks.
Six Year Limitation on H-1B Status
H-1B visa holders are eligible for a maximum stay of 6 years. The initial H-1 B period can not exceed 3 years. H-1 B status allows for what is known as "dual-intent" which makes it the best status from which to apply for Permanent Residence. Other non-immigrant categories require the individual to have the intent to return to country of residence upon completion of studies/research in the United States under the initial F-1 or J-1 status.
Dependents of someone in H-1B status will have H-4 status. This status allows for studying, but not for any kind of employment.