How do I temporarily sponsor foreign workers using an H-1B nonimmigrant visa?

Skilled workers such as IT professionals can usually be sponsored using the H-1B form for ''Specialty Occupations.'' The H-1B filing process has four steps that the petitioning employer must follow:

Step 1

Education Evaluation (foreign degree)

Step 2

Confirmation of Prevailing Wage

Step 3

Labor Condition Attestation (LCA) with the Department of Labor

Step 4

Preparation of H-1B petition, I-129 petition for immigrant worker + supplement, and supporting letter to the INS

Similar to the Labor Certification filed with the DOL for green card processing, the Labor Condition Attestation (form ETA-9035) required for H-1B processing documents that hiring the alien employee will not adversely affect the wages of similarly situated U.S. workers. The employer will also have to agree to pay the nonimmigrant's return travel costs if the individual is fired. However, unlike with green card sponsorship, employers aren't required to run recruitment ads in recognized newspapers to prove that the employment market was adequately tested.

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The position must require a bachelor's degree, but, unlike the ''Professional'' preference for immigrant visas, H-1B nonimmigrant candidates need not have a degree themselves: they may, instead, substitute at least twelve years of progressive experience for the degree. The H-1B visa is awarded for three years and may be extended for an additional three years (for a total of six years).

Furthermore, H-1Bs are ''employer-specific.'' That means that if employees leave another company to join yours while in H-1B status, they will need to apply for a new H-1B with your organization. Similarly, the Labor Condition Application is valid only in the region where it is certified and for the job location where it's certified. Therefore, transferring the employee to a new location of your company may require you to file a new Labor Condition Application for H-1B. Also, if the employee changes from full-time to part time status or his position substantially changes in terms of salary or job title, a new H-1B may be needed.

The legal costs of sponsoring an H-1B visa petition range from $1,500, to $2,500. (Extensions for years four through six will typically double that fee.) Additional fees include a $110 filing fee, a $1,000 retraining/scholarship fee for American workers, and miscellaneous fees, such as an educational evaluation fee ($150), diploma translation costs ($50), and H-1B family filing fees for spouses and children ($120 per person). You'll probably be looking at a total package of $4,000 to $6,000 for the typical six-year H-1B petition.

Most important, when keeping an open mind to the vast resources of human talent available beyond the U.S. border, remember that it's critical to obtain the services of a competent legal professional. Immigration law can be particularly complicated and fraught with exceptions, so proceed with the utmost caution. For information on immigration lawyers in your area, check with the American

Immigration Lawyers Association in Washington, D.C., by calling (202) 371-9377. Its Web site can be found at

Specifically refer to the Lawyer Referral Service section of the Web site, and you'll be able to find participating immigration attorneys in your state or territory who are members in good standing of their respective state bar associations. You'll be asked to either call (800) 954-0254 or to e-mail your request to This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it regarding your specific immigration needs. In addition, the charge for an initial, in-person, thirty-minute consultation with an attorney will be no more than $50 if you use this Web site referral service.

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