Why should H1B Immigrants Apply for a Valid USA Photo ID?
The importance of valid photo identification proof is present in every country, including the USA. You are asked to show your ID at various places to purchase things, transact on a credit card, open bank accounts, and apply for loans for proof at the airport and other places. The list just goes on, and sometimes you need a photo ID just to enter a club and prove your age.
You may say that you have your passport for an H1B visa, which is accepted anywhere as proof. But it is not a good idea to use your passport as an ID.
Why shouldn’t I use My Passport as a photo ID?
You will have to carry your passport with you all the time if you want to use it as proof. That means you will expose it to chances of being misplaced or lost. You may forget it in the bar or leave it in the taxi. Maybe you forgot your bag somewhere, and your passport was in it.
Losing a passport is a serious issue. You are stuck in the country and will have to apply for a duplicate passport. You will not be able to avail it when you need it, and it can land you in trouble.
It is challenging to get a new passport issued.
You have to run through hassles and face many formalities. The best is to have another ID which you can replace easily if it is lost. There are two easy IDs you can get:
H1B workers can use their documents and pay a fee to get the State ID. It is issued without any questions by the state government. You can get a duplicate one by paying charges if you lose it. It is accepted at all places that require a photo ID.
You can get a driving license issued from the USA from the DMV office of your state. You need to pass a written and road test. It is a simple process, and passing the tests gives you a driver’s license, which can be used as a valid ID at all places. You can read how to apply for a driving license in the USA right here.
The Advantages of having Multiple H1B Sponsors
It is challenging for many people to find an H1B sponsor to file their petition. Even if someone gets lucky and lands a sponsor, there is no surety of getting the visa. USCIS makes all the applications go through a lottery which picks the candidates randomly. Then comes the process of reviewing the winning petitions and deciding whether they would be approved.
It seems quite a difficult and far-fetched dream to get a job in the USA and live there.
What can you do to increase your chances of getting a job?
It may sound strange, but many candidates sometimes have more than one sponsor whole files the H1B petition on their behalf. Recently an H1B immigrant revealed on a question and answer website that he had received 5 sponsors who agreed to file his petition. Of course, the employers do not know this.
It is Legal to File Multiple Petitions?
USCIS does not restrict the number of petitions that can be filed. You can have 1, or you can have 10 petitions in your name. It is also possible to work for multiple employers in H1B status if you can prove employer-employee relation with your sponsor. It may be a tricky situation to handle, but few H1B immigrants work their way around 2 jobs. You can work a full-time job with a part-time or manage 2 part-time jobs. But your whole life will be consumed just with working and earning money.
Advantages of Finding Multiple H1B Sponsors
You can reject one employer and go for a single one if you have multiple petitions approved. You also have the chance of changing employers once you get your H1B status and opt for companies who are not your sponsors. Having multiple petitions for you has many benefits, including
- You have higher chances of getting picked in the lottery
- You can choose a job which you seem fit
- Having more options makes you confident
So do not stop just after you have secured one sponsor. Look for others to maximize your chances of getting through the lottery and approval. There is a lack of skilled labor in the US, and you can take advantage of the situation.
How to Tell if Your H1B Sponsor Really Filed Your Petition?
Your employer has the responsibility to file your H1B petition. The applications are sent to USCIS by your sponsor or the attorney handling your case. The USCIS issues a case number or receipt number once a petition is selected in the lottery.
Many candidates are apprehensive of their employers and want to know if they had really filed the petitions. Such aspiring candidates have even thought of impersonating their employers and calling the USCIS to find out about their petition.
Does USCIS reveal Information to the H1B Beneficiary?
USCIS only communicates with your H1B sponsor and the filing attorney on all accounts. They also do not give any acknowledgment receipt or confirmation of receiving your petitions.
You can get sure of the filing only if your petition gets selected in the lottery. The USCIS will mail the employer and the attorney the unique receipt number to track your case. You can then check the USCIS website or call the number of your respective service center to know your approval status.
How do you know if Your H1B Petition is Filed?
There is no way to find if your H1B has been filed unless selected in the lottery. Your employer and attorney will also get your petition back with a rejection letter from USCIS if it does not make the lottery.
You have to depend on your employer and ask them to provide you details. A reliable and trustworthy employer will never disclose information from you. Sometimes your H1B process may be handled by an attorney whom you can contact. You can ask the attorney for confirmation about your petition.
- Usually, your sponsor will send you the rejected application if you want.
- You will also get the receipt number if you are lucky to go through the lottery.
- You can track your case online or by phone once you have your 13 digit receipt number.
There is no need for an employer to withhold information from you. It can be a warning sign if you find such practice with your employer. You should get in touch with an attorney if your employer is not ready to cooperate at all.
How to get a USA Driving License on H1B Visa?
The USA has a good public transport system, but most residents have a car of their own. It makes sense to have your own conveyance means as it proves cost-effective and comfortable in the long run. To drive in the USA, you need a driver’s license like any other country.
It is dangerous to drive without one and will land you in trouble. You will have to pay hefty fines or, worse, land up in prison for breaking the law. H1B immigrants who work and live in the USA may feel the need to get a car. They will have to apply for a driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Both serve the same function but are just variations of the name depending on the state you live in.
How to Apply for Driving License in America?
Getting your driver’s license in the USA requires going through 2 tests that the DMV or DPS conducts. It is similar to the process in other countries and involves a written theoretical and practical road test.
Written Test – This is conducted to make sure you are aware of the driving rules in America. You can get the reading material free of cost from the DMV or DPS or download it online. Take some time to grasp the information and be prepared to face the test.
Road Test – You will get your learner’s permit or instruction permit once you clear the written test. The department will give you a date for the road test. You will get some time to practice and improve your driving skills before the test.
You may get to take the test without waiting if you possess an international driving license. Else it can take up to 14 days to be delivered to your US address. After you pass the driving test, your license will be mailed to you within few days. You can retake the test after some time if you fail to pass it on the first attempt.
Documents required for Driving License
- Proof of identity and date of birth
- Proof of H1B visa status
- Proof of US address
I-94 card issued at entry
Social Security Number
Utility bill/Bank Statement
Managing and Earning from Property on H1B Status
Many H1B visa holders rent apartments while they live and work in the USA. After a few years, they earn enough to look for property of their own. Some also want some side income and look for investing in property. But most of them are not well aware of the rules about buying property on H1B status.
Can you Buy Property while on an H1B visa?
There is nothing to hold you back from buying your own personal home. You can live in it, and you can also own more than one house. You may need to secure a mortgage loan, and many providers are out there to meet your need. Just be sure to have a suitable credit score that ensures high loan amounts and low-interest rates. You may also need to prove to the loan provider about your availability to pay back the loan amount.
Can I Earn from Property on H1B Status?
Earning from property should be in a passive form and not a direct income. It is like investing in stocks where the income does not need you to work directly for it. You can rent your property and earn from it, but it cannot become your main income. You will need to spend adequate hours per week with your employer duties to maintain the H1B status and make the income from property legal.
It is advisable to hire an agent who takes care of the whole thing on your behalf if you have multiple rental properties. You cannot get involved with the duties actively, which can make the income unlawful.
Can I Sell My House and Earn Profit?
Some H1B visa holders stay away from buying a house because they have to sell it when leaving the US. This is not any hindrance as you can sell your property or house that you bought during your tenure. You can also take the profit that you make from the sale of the house. But there is one consideration to make. You may have to pay a significant capital gains tax as you are non-resident selling property in the US. Other than that, you may sell and leave the US with the profit after paying the due taxes.
When do You Need to File an H1B Amendment Petition?
What is H1B Amendment?
USCIS needs to be notified when your terms and conditions of the original H1B petition are no longer valid. The Amendment petition has to be filed by your employer when such material changes take place involving your job or eligibility.
When Do Employers Need to File H1B Amendment Petition?
There are certain cases where the employer must notify the USCIS through the Amendment petition:
- Your job responsibilities change from what is mentioned in the initial H1B petition.
- You are transferred from one job location or office to another not included in the original Labor Condition Application (LCA). The new agency acts as the current employer, and the old one is removed from the responsibility. However, if your job field remains unchanged by the transfer, your employer remains the same with a valid supporting LCA; there is no need for amendment.
- If the job changes from full-time to part-time or the opposite.
- There is a change of employer, and a new LCA has to be filed with the Department of Labor. It transfers the H1B responsibilities to the new employer, making him liable for the H1B employee’s return conveyance costs.
- When your sponsor company creates a third entity by joining another company, there is a need for H1Bamendment. The newly formed company now holds your H1B responsibilities.
Exceptions to H1B Amendment
The following cases do not require your employer to file any petition:
- If there is any new ownership structure not changing, the employer.
- If the sponsor company changes its name. They can notify the change while applying for any extensions of the H1B status of the candidate.
- If there is just change or branches within a single company without any change of employer.
- When the job position or title of the candidate goes through a change without affecting his responsibilities considerably.
Your employer has to file the H1B Amendment petition with the USCIS, and it is their responsibility to issue the notification. You may consult with your employer if you think your job role or responsibilities have undergone a change. Any change of employer or H1B sponsor also needs to be notified accordingly with USCIS.
How Long Can an H1B Worker Stay in the USA Legally?
The H1B visas are given to non-immigrants who come to work in the USA. Initially, the visas are approved for 3 years, after which they can be extended for another 3 years. In total, an H1B worker can stay in the USA for 6 complete years. After that, he has to stay out of the USA for at least a year before applying for the visa. He can also choose to change his status through a different visa, file for a green card or obtain an extension of the current visa. Staying back in America after the visa expires makes you an illegal immigrant, and you face the risks of being deported.
How is the number of years calculated?
The number of years is calculated based on the time you spend in the USA. It does not consider any time you spend outside the USA on an H1B visa. You can go out and again enter the USA with your H1B visa, but it will not add to the 6 years limit.
For example, a worker from China goes to the USA and works there for 6 years on an H1B. During that period, he goes back to his country for 2 months and again comes back. Now, he can stay for an additional 2 months over the end date of his visa tenure as it does not count towards the limit. The federal laws grant H1B workers to ‘recapture’ any time spent outside the USA to take full advantage of the 6 year H1B limit.
H1B workers who change over to other visas like L1 have to count their time under the other visa towards their 6 years mandate. Any time you spend under the L1 visa will add to the H1B visa limit. The opposite is also the same where the time spent under H1B visa is added towards the limit of L1 visas.
H1B employees often bring their spouses to the USA on H4 visas. The spouses also look forward to getting their own H1Bs so that they can work independently. The time they spend under the H4 visa is not counted towards the limit of H1B. The tenure of the H1B starts afresh and does not include previous time spent in the USA on other visas.
Full-Time Vs. Consulting Jobs – Which Suits H1B Workers?
H1B employees in the US have the option of 2 career paths. They can work in a full-time position in a US company or go for consulting jobs. Both types have their own pros and cons, and the H1B worker’s preferences come into play while deciding which one to pick.
A full-time job may be offered by any US company where you are on the organization’s payroll. You are provided the working space and paid each month directly by the employing company.
Companies that hire H1B workers are generally offered consulting jobs and make them work as consultants at third-party organizations. They are meant for solving problems and providing specific services at the job site. They are paid by their agencies and do not feature in the company payroll.
Pros and Cons
Being on a full-time job offers many benefits and a definite path of growth. You are eligible for fringe benefits, insurance, education reimbursements, etc, provided at par with the other native employees. You have a specific job title, and opportunities for promotion also exist if you are competent at your work. But the initial salary may be low when compared to consulting jobs. Working full time helps you gather experience that adds up in your resume. You can use them to get a better-paying job with another employer after working a year in a full-time position.
Consulting companies generally can pay higher salaries to H1B workers than full-time positions in the beginning. The companies can afford the extra pay as they do not have any overhead or running costs associated with providing workspace and employees. You are not eligible for any benefits of the company you are consulting for. Chances of promotion are also less though you may extend your contract with a better position with another company.
Which One to Pick?
Consulting jobs are great for H1B workers who want to earn quick income and return to their countries. But if someone is seeking permanent residence, then full-time jobs provide a better way to prepare yourself and ensure high-paying jobs in the future.
The Necessity of H1B Health Insurance in the USA
Health insurance is important for any person to keep them financially secure during medical emergencies. It can also be used to reimburse or directly pay your hospital and pharmacy bills. You must have proper medical coverage when you are going to the USA on an H1B visa.
The Importance of Health Insurance in the USA
Healthcare in the USA costs a lot, and after the implementation of Obamacare, it is indispensable to have health insurance. Your employer will generally provide you with a healthcare plan if they have more than 50 full-time employees. But still, it may not be suitable in the following scenarios:
- You may be without coverage when you are on the bench or changing employers.
- Your employer-provided healthcare plan can be expensive than market plans.
- You may not get suitable coverage depending on your medical history and conditions.
- Your employer will not provide any insurance for your spouse or dependants. You need to have separate insurances for them.
Types of Health Insurance in the USA
.You can get your visa from any reputed organization depending on your needs. You will get short-term coverage for yourself or your spouse for the time spent in the USA. You will be covered against any injury and sickness encountered during the period. You can opt for 2 types of plans in usual cases:
Fixed Benefits Plan
The plans have a fixed paying limit and cover a specified list of illnesses or scenarios. You generally pay a low premium, but the charges borne by you can be quite a lot over the limit.
These are more flexible and do not have a maximum limit or specific disease list. It provides extensive coverage, and the premiums are expensive than fixed plans.
The Cost of H1B Health Insurance
The premium of the insurance depends on many factors, including
- Age of the person.
- The amount of coverage opted for. Higher limits ($ 25,000 to $ 1,000,000) lead to higher premiums.
- The insurer’s chosen deductible ($ 0 to $ 2,500) is paid before the insurance plan provides any coverage.
Whichever plan you choose, make sure you are covered before you land in America.
Can You Study on an H1B Visa in the USA?
Extending your educational qualifications works great for all careers. You get promotions, and better and high-paying job opportunities start knocking on your door. The same applies to H1B visa employees who arrive from different countries to work in the USA. Many H1B workers look forward to studying further after they start working with degrees like MBA, MS, etc. But many of them have confusion about the rules and are not able to make their decisions effectively.
Can You Study on an H1B Visa?
The federal laws do not restrict an H1B individual from pursuing studies in the USA. You can very well join a university and start studying for MBA or master’s courses. You have to meet only one clause, which is maintaining your status as an H1B employee. You have to be on your employer’s payroll and have to pay your monthly salaries regularly. Apart from that, you do not need to satisfy any other requirements.
Options of Study: Part-Time and Full Time
In the USA, you can opt for both full-time and part-time courses. In some countries, part-time courses signify distance education, and their degrees are also sometimes less valued. But in the US, the difference exists only in the number of credits and classes taken per semester.
- Full-time courses require you to opt for 9 credits which are usually 3 classes each semester.
- You have to get 6 credits, which generally consists of typically 2 classes per semester.
The degrees of both types of courses are the same, and they teach the same curriculum. You can even go for online courses run by many American universities. They are different from the above-discussed courses and offer much flexibility through the degrees may vary.
Tips to Aspiring H1B Students
The courses like MBA are specially conducted to meet the schedule of working individuals. You can find evening or weekend classes that can conveniently fit in with your working routine. You can also be eligible for the in-state tuition fees after working for a year in a specific US state and paying the required taxes. Your company may also take interest and pay your tuition fees in some cases.
The Basic Rights of an H1B Worker
Some people have a misconception about the rights of H1B workers. Many of such laborers arrive from countries where employee rights are not protected effectively. But the scenario is completely different in the US, and even H1B workers have their basic rights. The rights are laid down by the US Department of Labor and apply to each and every H1B talent working in the US. Let’s find out what they are!
What are the Rights of an H1B Employee?
The Department of Labor states the following rights for non-immigrants who arrive in the USA to work in specialty occupations or fashion models. Non-immigrants are persons who come into the US without plans of settling down. But status does not hinder the application of a Green card in the future.
You are entitled to a salary that is equal to a US counterpart having the same job role, experience and qualifications. Your employer has to pay the Department of Labor’s prevailing wage or a salary that is higher than it paid to the American employees. You also need to be compensated for any unproductive time for which your employer is responsible. Your fringe benefits should be at par with any US employee.
Prevention of Illegal Deductions
Your employer does not have the right to ask you to pay for the entire or part of the H1B filing fee. You cannot also be made to pay any attorney or related charges. The laws also forbid the employer to charge financial penalties if you quit before the term mentioned in the H1B offer letter.
It is mandatory for your employer to maintain records of your wages and working hours. You should also be handed the payslip for your salary, especially if it is in cash.
Your working conditions have to be provided by the employer on the same level as for other native employees. You cannot be treated differently from them.
You cannot be discriminated against on any grounds or threatened or intimated. You can even lodge a formal complaint if you find violations of H1B rules by your employer.
How to Check your H1B Visa Status?
USCIS gives H1B visas to foreign workers who an American company sponsors. Employers have to file their requests which are then run through a lottery system to choose the eligible workers from foreign countries. It becomes necessary for employers and companies to track the status of their visa requests. They want their employees to join as soon as possible to fill up the job positions. Tracking the status of the visa request becomes very important for employers. People who apply for jobs also sometimes feel the need to check how long their visas are going to take to get approved.
How to Check the Status of an H1B Visa?
There are 2 ways to find out the position of a visa request. You can either use the USCIS portal on the internet or manually call their centers to gather the information. In both cases, you will require your 13 digit receipt number assigned by USCIS. You will be able to know the filing date of your visa and the expected time required for the approval.
Doing it Online
The USCIS website for searching your visa status is called Case Status Online. You just need to go to the website, enter the 13 digits alphanumeric USCIS receipt number and hit the “Check Status” button.
Checking H1B Status through Phone
USCIS also makes it possible to find the status of a pending visa by calling their service centers. Calling the number takes you through an automated voice process where you get the required information. You need to provide the receipt number in order to track the status. It is better to use a touch phone for this purpose. The phone numbers for different service centers are given below. Call the one which is appropriate for your case.
USCIS Service Center Contact Numbers
- California Service Center (WAC) – 949-831-8427
- Texas Service Center (SRC) – 214-381-1423
- Nebraska Service Center (LIN) – 402-323-7830
- Vermont Service Center (EAC) – 802-527-4913
(The codes in the brackets signify the service centers. You will be able to find out your service center by looking at the visa receipt number. The first 3 characters denote the service center location. For example, if your number starts with SRC, then your visa processing center in Texas.
How can Students with F1 Visa transit to H1B Status?
There are various strategies a person can employ to work as a non-immigrant in the USA. Some foreign candidates take up higher education in the USA in MS or MBA ope of getting an H1B status and get employed. Such students are granted the F1 visa through which they can study in any university of America. After they graduate, there are two options for them: either leaving the country or transferring their F1 to H1B visa. Today we are going to discuss how to go about the process of transferring the visas.
How can You Transfer F1 to H1B?
You need to apply for OPT or Optional Practical Training, which is authorization to work in the US after you graduate. This needs to be done at least 90 days prior to the date of graduation. You will get a grace period of 60 days if you forget to file, but it is advised to act early to keep things simple and hassle-free.
You have to work with your advisors and school official to apply for OPT. Filling up of form I-765 is necessary, along with payment of necessary fees. You will also get a new I20, and after submitting the necessary forms, you will be handed an EAD or OPT card.
You should find employment before or once your OPT begins. You cannot stay unemployed for more than 90 days (120 days in case of 29 months OPT) throughout your 12 months OPT period.
The transition from OPT to H1B
Once you are on OPT, start looking and applying to companies that may sponsor your H1B petition. You will have to take interviews with the companies if they call you. After selection, they will file your H1B visa petition on your behalf by paying the necessary fees. Your MS degree will get you a place in the 20,000 exempt caps of graduates with higher education from the US. Others who do not possess such degrees will be entered in the normal cap of 65,000 H1B candidates.
Generally, the candidates are selected via lottery, and the USCIS sends the successful ones approval notices. You can use your case status online by visiting the USCIS website.
H1B Visas Should Be Utilized for Hunting Talent, Not Cheap Labor
Recently, an editorial in the New York Times highlighted the urgency of reforming the H1B Visa laws. Many companies misused the rules to displace Americans for cheap foreign labor and outsource the whole recruiting process overseas to staffing companies. The newspaper appealed to the US Congress to address the loopholes existing in the system so that the H1B Visas are used only to hire essential talent instead of cheap resources.
The editorial cited many cases where American workers were discriminated against or laid off. H1B Visa workers were favored over them though sometimes their skills were questionable. Many cases had been reported where the laid-off native workers had to train their foreign replacements before they were made to quit. The new workers were paid lower than the native workers. According to rules, only college-educated foreign nationals possessing highly specialized knowledge in fields of specialty occupations are allowed to be hired. The loopholes in the regulations are responsible for the visa abuses that harm the American worker.
Many leading companies, Disney, Abbott Laboratories, Toys “R” Us, Southern California Edison and New York Life, replaced US workers with foreign counterparts. The cases did not come to light as the laid-off employees did not protest or made their voices heard. The reason behind this is an agreement that the native workers had to sign to get their full severance pay. The non-disparagement agreement prohibits the employees from being vocal against their former employers. This instrument has gagged the protests which otherwise would have been there.
But not all employees forfeit their chances of raising their voice for the incentive of full payments. One laid-off employee of Abbott had to let go a big part of his severance pay by not signing the agreement. Along with thirteen other employees, he has filed federal claims to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They cited discrimination dealt out because of their origin and age. The non-disparagement agreement has been under fire from Congressional leaders. The Senate will reform the laws against this agreement so that employees can protest and lodge complaints against any unjust practice.
Lawsuit Filed Seeking Transparency in H1B Visa Lottery
Recently, a lawsuit against the federal government was filed by two top US advocacy groups related to immigration. American Immigration Council and American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) filed their lawsuit against USCIS and the Department of Homeland security to make the process of lottery selection of H1B Visas transparent and open.
Many groups and individuals have sent their petitions to the government seeking information on the H1B lottery and the selection process. But the petitions are never acted on, and they disappear into the black hole. The Legal Director of American Immigration Council, Melissa Crow, told a newspaper that the lawsuit was intended to make the process of lottery and selection transparent and known to the public. The foreign nationals and the companies impacted by the H1B Visas must be fully aware of the process and able to determine if it was conducted honestly and according to the numbers specified by federal laws.
The executive director of AILA, Benjamin Johnson, said their attempts to reveal the process have been resisted by the current government. President Obama may have committed to maintaining transparency and accountability, but it has not reflected on the issues regarding H1B Visas. He thought the process was completely opaque, and the government has not disclosed details of the lottery, number estimation, and tracking.
The H1B Visas are an important part of America’s business immigration system and receive an overwhelming number of applications each year. Huge numbers have exceeded the legal cap for over ten years, and each year, the applications keep increasing. In such cases, the USCIS uses a computer-controlled random selection process or the lottery to choose the permissible number of applications. The same process was used to pick 20,000 visas for the exempted cap and 65,000 workers for special skilled area jobs. The rejected applications are returned to the companies who filed them. The H1B Visas affects many US companies and foreign nationals looking forward to work in the US. The whole process around the visas is a subject of keen interest for many parties.
What Did Trump Say about H1B Visas?
H1B visa, given to foreign workers if they are specialized in some skill, has ensured that thousands of Indians each year could go and live in the United States each year.
Getting an H1B visa will enable you to start working in a company there. For employers in the United States, it helps tap into foreign talent and gives foreign workers opportunities to work in their company.
And recently, none but Donald Trump had an opinion about it. His views centered on changing or modifying the policies if he became the United States president.
Trump is known for having strong views on immigration policies; however, he has been quite inconsistent with H1B visas. Some of the highlights of his views on H1B visas are as follows:
– He proposed that there should be an increase in basic requirements for hiring foreign employees.
– He also added that there should be an increase in the minimum wages for entry-level jobs if a foreigner is being hired on an H1B visa.
– On being asked about foreign graduates of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, he said that he would very much like them to stay and work in the United States.
-Despite being extremely opposed to H1B visa in the beginning, at a later stage, he took a moderate stance on it and said that he would rather want people to come legally.
In an interview, he also admitted that he is trying to change his attitude towards H1B visas because America needs more skilled labor in the workforce. They don’t want to let go of the graduates from Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton and alike.
However, according to a statement released on his campaign website, Trump again changed back his stance and said that he does not support H1B visas.
It is interesting to see what he eventually decides to do, should he win the Presidential election. He has appealed to the Indian community in the United States, stating that they would find a permanent friend in him if he becomes the President. The question is, did he really mean it?