H-1B is a non-immigrant visa that allows professionals to work in the United States for a period of maximum 6 years. It is an employer sponsored visa category i.e. an employer must offer a job and apply for your H1 visa petition with US immigration department.
This approved petition is a work permit that allows you to work in USA for that particular employer. It’s also important to know that H-1B is job specific. The visa is only valid for work with the employer that filed the original petition. If you change your job then your new employer must file a H-1B visa transfer petition.
65,000 H-1B visas are issued per fiscal year for overseas professionals and 20,000 visas are available for people graduating from a US academic institution with an advanced degree. H1-B visa issued during the year becomes effective on October 1st. This means you cannot start working before October 1 even if your H-1B visa processing has been done in April. Usually employers start applying for the H-1B visa six months before the actual start date of the visa i.e. on April 1. For instance, employers can apply as soon as April 1, 2014 for the FY 2015 cap, but you cannot start work until October 1, 2014.
It’s important to note that the maximum allowed limit of H1B applicants reaches within first few days due to thousands of H-1B petitions filed every year. In such a case computer-generated random-selection lottery is conducted on the applications received on first 5 business days of April. Dependent spouses can work only if companies offer them a job and apply for their H-1B visa petition. Since the applications received on first 5 business days of April are included in lottery, it’s advisable to look for the job as soon as possible.
http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis is the official website of US Citizenship and immigration services. You can read more about H-1B visa here. In USCIS’s official website, you can track the H1B visas left in a year before it reaches the cap. For fiscal year 2015, the cap has been filled. For more information visit the site. This means if currently you do not have the visa, but you have a job, still you cannot start working till Oct 2015. If you get lucky in the lottery for the next fiscal year i,e, 2016 then you may start working in Oct 2015 otherwise you need to wait till next year for applying again.
However, few sectors are exempt from this cap limitation. You will find more info on it in the Expert Advice from Mike Miller. Visit our Expert Advice section here.