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H-1B Visas for Small Businesses: 5 Tips

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Small businesses regularly struggle with H-1B visa quotas. As The Wall Street Journal explains, in the United States, the early bird not only gets the worm, it gets the coveted H-1B visa, a temporary work permit the U.S. issues to highly skilled foreign workers.

If you need to file paperwork for an H-1B visa, make sure to get familiar with the process and submit your paperwork sooner rather than later. The application period begins April 1.

For starters, small business owners should get acquainted with the following five aspects of the H-1B visa:

  1. Basic requirements of a "specialty occupation." H-1B visas are granted to foreign nationals who will work in the United States in a "specialty occupation." On a very general and basic level, employers must meet two requirements: First, the job must require a specific bachelor's degree -- such as accounting or engineering -- or the equivalent in combined education and experience. Second, the foreign national employee must have a relevant degree or the equivalent. Though it sounds straightforward, it can actually become pretty complicated.
  2. Specific wage payments. Employers must pay H-1B employees a certain wage. You will need to file a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor to certify that you will pay the sponsored H-1B employee the higher of the "actual wage" at your workplace or the "prevailing wage" in the industry.
  3. Term of employment. H-1B employees can work for up to six years in the United States, in maximum periods of three years at a time. But the six-year rule doesn't apply to H-1B employees who work in the United States for less than six months each year, or who have reached a certain point in the employment-based green card process.
  4. Termination. If you fire or lay off an H-1B employee, you must offer to pay for return transportation to his or her last place of residence. You don't need to do this if the worker quits or resigns. You aren't required to cover transportation costs for the worker's family members.
  5. Notice of end of employment. When the worker's H-1B employment ends, you need to notify U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to have the petition revoked. Until then, you'll have to keep paying wages to the H-1B employee.

For additional guidance on the H-1B visa process, you might want to consult an experienced immigration attorney in your area.

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