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LEGAL TIPS – What is an “H” Visa?

Unfortunately, the United States does not have a single “work visa” good for all jobs.  Instead, work permission is related to the type of job to be filled and the qualifications of the potential employee.  Most workers coming to the United States will fall under one of two types of visas:  the H visa and the J visa.  Each has its own regulations and time periods.  Moreover, in some cases there are limits to the total number of visas that can be issued in any particular year.  This article will provide general information on H visas.

H visas are used by companies to bring workers to the United States to meet temporary needs.  The employer generally must demonstrate that there is a temporary or seasonal need for employees that cannot be met by workers in the employer’s local area.  There are two basic types of H visas:  the H1 visa for professionals and the H2 visa for lesser-skilled workers.  Because of the current demand for foreign workers, the H1 visa quota has already been reached for FY 2006 and 2007.  H2 visas may still be available.  These visas are for employment not exceeding one year, and may be renewed twice.  However, they are non-immigrant visas, and the worker must leave when the visa expires unless he or she has a different source of legal permission to stay.

Workers with H visas should remember that their permission to be in the United States is tied to their employment.  They cannot leave their jobs and take new jobs without official permission.  It is sometimes possible for workers with an H visa to change jobs, but it can be very difficult, as the potential new employer must decide whether he wants to pay the money required for the potential employee.  H visas must also be renewed well in advance through the current employer, and renewals are not automatic.  Workers with H visas should also remember, however, that their employer may be responsible for the cost of their transportation back home when their employment ends (even if they are fired).

Immigration law is a complex field, and each case should be reviewed individually.  This article is intended to provide general information, not legal advice.  If you have legal questions about a specific case or matter involving visas, you are advised to consult an attorney.