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H-1B Visa

Beyond OPT: Pursuing the H-1B Work Visa in the U.S.

Fast Facts about the H-1B Visa

  • H-1B is a non-immigrant classification for temporary employment in a specialty occupation.
  • H-1B is a separate non-immigrant classification, unlike OPT, which is still part of the F-1 visa.
  • You cannot apply for an H-1B visa by yourself. Your employer has to petition for your H-1B visa.
  • Each year, there is a cap of 65,000 H-1B visas, plus another 20,000 for applicants with a Master's Degree or higher.
  • Some employers are "cap-exempt," which means the 85,000 cap does not apply to them. These employers include higher education institutions, university-affiliated nonprofit entities, and nonprofit or governmental research organizations.
  • If an employer is subject to the cap, H-1B petitions can be submitted on April 1st of each year.
  • USCIS received 233,000 H-1B cap cases for the Fiscal Year 2016. There was a 36.5% chance of a petition being accepted for processing.
  • The ISS Office and the Career Center can point you to online resources that show which companies sponsor H-1B visas. If you are a current USC student, you can email employment advisor Lauren Smith to get the login information to
  • You can also read statistics about H-1B visas by state using the Office of Foreign Labor Certification's data.
  • The H-1B status may be extended for a maximum period of six aggregate years.*
  • The H-1B "job-site specific", meaning that each H-1B is "specific" to one particular job description, time frame, location, department and institution.* 

*Each case is unique, and we recommend you consult an immigration attorney about your specific situation.

Employer Responsibilities

There are 3 major steps in the H-1B petition process for the employer.

  1. Requesting the Prevailing Wage from the Department of Labor's National Prevailing Wage Center and the Actual Wage from University of South Carolina's Office of Human Resources
  2. Filing the Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor
  3. Filing the Form I-129, certified Labor Condition Application, and beneficiary's supporting documentation with USCIS at a Service Center

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