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How does H-1B nomination work?

What is the H-1B visa?

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Technology companies especially rely on the H-1B program to hire highly-skilled foreign talent to fill roles such as software engineers, developers, data scientists, etc.

The H-1B visa has an annual cap of 65,000 visas, with an additional 20,000 visas for those who have earned a Master’s degree or higher from a US institution. Due to high demand, the cap is usually reached within the first week of applications being open. This has led to most H-1B visas being allocated through a lottery system.

What is H-1B visa nomination?

H-1B visa nomination refers to the process where an employer selects a foreign national that they wish to sponsor for an H-1B visa. The nomination is the first step for a foreign worker to obtain an H-1B visa.

Here’s an overview of the H-1B nomination process:

– Employer identifies a foreign candidate that they want to hire and sponsor for an H-1B visa. The candidate must meet the requirements for the specialty occupation role.

– Employer evaluates the foreign national’s eligibility for the program. This includes verifying education credentials and work experience.

– Employer files Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the Department of Labor. This certifies that the offered wage meets requirements and that the working conditions will not adversely affect other US workers.

– After LCA is certified, employer nominates the foreign worker for the H-1B program. This establishes the employer’s intent to hire the person.

– Employer submits H-1B petition to USCIS on behalf of the worker. This includes evidence that the role is a specialty occupation and that the worker is qualified.

– If approved, worker can start employment when H-1B status becomes effective (typically Oct 1st).

When does H-1B visa nomination happen?

The H-1B nomination timeline aligns with the H-1B visa application deadlines set by USCIS. Key dates include:

– **April 1st** – Earliest date an employer can file H-1B petition for next fiscal year. The fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30.

– **1st week of April** – Deadline for electronic registration for the H-1B lottery. USCIS runs a random selection process if sufficient petitions are received.

– **June** – Notification of lottery results is sent to employers. Selected petitions can continue with full H-1B application.

– **July-August** – Deadline for submitting full H-1B application with fees and supporting documents. This is when the nomination needs to be finalized.

– **October 1st** – Earliest start date for H-1B employment for workers selected in lottery.

As you can see, employers looking to nominate candidates for the upcoming fiscal year need to file the petition during the April application window. This requires advance planning and preparation with the nominated worker.

Who is involved in H-1B nomination?

The main parties involved in an H-1B nomination are:

– **Employer** – The US company seeking to hire the foreign national. They drive the nomination process and visa petition.

– **Candidate** – The foreign worker being nominated. They provide the required documents and information.

– **Immigration attorney** – Specialist lawyers typically prepare and file the visa petitions. They ensure compliance with regulations.

– **Department of Labor** – Reviews labor condition application to validate wages and working conditions.

– **USCIS** – Government agency that evaluates and makes final decision on H-1B visa petitions.

While employers and candidates work together closely through the process, immigration attorneys and government agencies also play an important role in ensuring complete and compliant visa applications.

What criteria are used to select H-1B candidates for nomination?

There are a few key criteria employers use to assess foreign nationals for H-1B nomination:

– **Specialty occupation skills** – The role must qualify as a specialty occupation, and the candidate must have the required theoretical or technical skills. This is validated through degrees and work experience.

– **Education requirements** – A Bachelor’s degree or higher in a relevant field is required. Some exceptions apply for candidates with sufficient relevant experience.

– **Employment history** – Strong preference is given to candidates with experience in similar roles or technical environments. This further validates specialty occupation skills.

– **English proficiency** – Candidates must be able to read, write and speak English fluently. This ensures they can adequately perform the required job duties.

– **Cultural fit** – Employers look for candidates that align with company values and demonstrate the soft skills needed to successfully integrate into the team.

– **Project needs** – Nominations may be based on critical open positions that need to be urgently filled with skilled talent.

The right mix of technical skills, education, experience and cultural fit help identify top candidates worthy of an H-1B nomination.

What are the steps in the H-1B nomination process?

Here is an overview of the key steps involved in nominating an employee for H-1B visa sponsorship:

1. **Identify specialty occupation need** – Determine that a technical role needs to be filled by a foreign national. Confirm it qualifies as a specialty occupation.

2. **Candidate selection** – Source and evaluate qualified candidates for the position. Assess their eligibility for H-1B program.

3. **Initiate visa process** – Obtain prevailing wage determination from the Department of Labor.

4. **File LCA** – Submit Labor Condition Application detailing wages, working conditions, and impact on US workers.

5. **LCA certification** – Receive certified LCA from Department of Labor. This approves the terms of employment.

6. **Official nomination** – Extend job offer and nominate selected candidate for H-1B visa after LCA certification.

7. **Gather documents** – Collect all required documents from candidate such as transcripts, diplomas, passport, etc.

8. **Complete I-129 petition** – Prepare and compile the H-1B visa petition to submit to USCIS.

9. **File petition with USCIS** – Submit the petition within the required window of April 1 to August 17.

10. **Receive receipt notice** – Get receipt notice from USCIS confirming acceptance of the petition.

11. **Await petition approval** – USCIS reviews and makes a final decision on petition approval.

What documents are required for H-1B nomination?

The following key documents are required from both the employer and the nominated employee during the H-1B petition process:

**From Employer:**

– Labor Condition Application (LCA)
– Letter explaining the specialty occupation and minimum requirements
– Job offer letter with salary and employment details
– Organizational chart and company background documents

**From Candidate:**

– Passport, biographical pages
– Resume or CV
– Educational degrees and transcripts
– Professional licenses or certificates
– Previous visa petitions (if applicable)
– Passport photos

In addition, the employer must pay the applicable USCIS filing fees. Candidates may also need to provide proof of having the financial means to live in the US.

Thoroughly compiling all these required documents helps ensure the H-1B visa petition has the maximum chance of approval.

What are the limitations or restrictions around H-1B nominations?

There are some key limitations and restrictions employers need to keep in mind around H-1B nominations:

– **Annual cap** – There is a 65,000 annual limit on regular H-1B visas, and a 20,000 limit for advanced degree exemptions. This causes immense oversubscription.

– **Lottery system** – Due to high demand, most H-1Bs require participating in a randomized lottery selection process, with no guarantee of approval.

– **Earliest start date** – H-1B employees may start working on October 1 at the earliest each year when the visa becomes effective.

– **One application per year** – Each candidate can only be included in one H-1B petition within each fiscal year. No duplicate submissions.

– **Maximum duration** – H-1B status is granted for up to 3 years initially, with ability to extend to a total of 6 years maximum.

– **Employer sponsorship** – H-1Bs employees can only work for the sponsoring employer. They cannot transfer employers freely or be self-employed.

– **Labor conditions** – Employers must comply with wages and working conditions specified in the approved Labor Condition Application.

– **Temporary status** – H-1B is a temporary non-immigrant visa. It does not provide permanent residency or indefinite work authorization.

Carefully adhering to all these restrictions is imperative when nominating foreign nationals for the H-1B program.

Can employees nominate themselves for an H-1B visa?

No, employees cannot self-nominate or self-petition for an H-1B visa. The visa petition process must be driven by an employer to sponsor the foreign national. Candidates cannot request an H-1B visa on their own without having a job offer and employer sponsorship.

The only exceptions are:

– **H-1B extensions** – Current H-1B visa holders may file for extensions of their status with the same employer. The existing employer must agree to continue sponsoring them.

– **H-1B transfers** – Those already on an H-1B can transfer to a new employer willing to take over sponsorship with minimal disruption in status.

– **Cap-exempt employers** – A small number of cap-exempt institutions like universities, research organizations, and non-profits have ability to sponsor H-1Bs without going through the lottery.

But in all cases, employee nomination relies on active participation from the sponsoring employer. Self-petitioning for a new H-1B visa as an employee is not possible under existing rules.

Can H-1B nominations be transferred or reused?

No, H-1B nominations and approved petitions are non-transferable. Each petition is tied solely to the specific employer and foreign worker identified in the application.

If the employee declines the nomination or changes their mind, the employer cannot simply transfer it to another candidate. The nomination becomes invalid and a new petition must be filed for a different employee.

Likewise, an approved H-1B visa tied to one employer cannot be transferred to a different company. The new employer must independently file a fresh H-1B petition on the worker’s behalf.

The only transferability allowed is in case the nominated employee changes job locations with the same employer. As long as job duties remain similar, the approved H-1B can move to a different worksite under the same sponsorship.

But in summary, H-1B nominations cannot be freely reused or transferred across different employers or employees. Each nomination or approved visa petition has limited one-time use.

What happens if an employee declines or challenges the H-1B nomination?

If an employee declines their H-1B nomination or disagrees with some aspect of the employer’s petition on their behalf, the employer has limited options:

– **Withdraw petition** – The employer can formally withdraw the H-1B petition if the employee declines or disputes the nomination. However, the petition will count towards the annual cap.

– **Address concerns** – The employer can discuss concerns with the employee, provide clarification, and resolve any disputes. If issues are resolved, the petition can proceed normally.

– **Proceed without employee consent** – Employers are legally allowed to proceed with an H-1B petition without employee consent or signature. But this risks them filing complaints or even quitting.

– **Refuse to provide documents** – Without employee cooperation in providing required documents, employers will struggle to get H-1B petitions approved.

– **Find replacement candidate** – If the original nominee declines or disputes nomination, the employer may decide to sponsor a different willing candidate instead.

To avoid nomination problems, employers should ensure open communication, agree on all employment terms, and get full cooperation before filing the H-1B petition. Handling nomination disputes gracefully preserves employer-employee trust.

What are the rights of an employee facing H-1B nomination issues?

Employees do have certain rights if they encounter problems or disputes related to their H-1B nomination:

– **Review documents** – Right to review full copy of the H-1B petition and supporting documents filed by employer. This reveals any inaccuracies.

– **Request corrections** – Ability to ask employer to correct or remove any inaccurate representations made in the petition. Employers are obligated to comply.

– **Report violations** – If serious violations are noted (e.g. misrepresented job duties, forged documents, inflated salaries), the employee can report these to appropriate authorities.

– **Withdraw consent** – Employees can notify the employer that they no longer agree to the H-1B nomination and wish to withdraw consent for filing the petition.

– **Refuse cooperation** – Right to refuse to provide any further documentation or information to employer if consent for nomination is withdrawn.

– **Consult attorney** – Seek legal counsel on options for challenging the nomination or petition if it is believed to be non-compliant or fraudulent.

– **Change employers** – Ultimately employees can always choose to resign from sponsoring employer rather than continue disputed H-1B employment.

Exercising these rights helps protect employees from potential exploitation or misuse of the H-1B system.

What are best practices for employers when nominating H-1B candidates?

Some best practices for employers when nominating foreign nationals for H-1B visas:

– Provide full transparency on the process, requirements, and timeline throughout

– Work cooperatively with the candidate at every stage

– Give clear instructions for the types of documents and information required

– Allow adequate time for collection of documentation

– Keep candidate informed on progress after filing petition

– Proactively share status updates and responses from USCIS

– Maintain open communication channels for any candidate questions

– Avoid unreasonable demands or unrealistic requests that may overburden candidate

– Treat candidate respectfully and professionally even if they decline the nomination

– Ensure truthfulness and accuracy in all documents and representations to USCIS

– Comply fully with all H-1B regulations and requirements

Following these best practices reflects positively on the employer and helps build goodwill with candidates being nominated for H-1B visas.


The H-1B visa nomination process is the crucial first step for employers seeking to hire qualified foreign talent. Key considerations include H-1B eligibility criteria, documentation requirements, application timelines, regulations, and practices that create a smooth and compliant nomination experience. With the right preparation and coordination, employers and candidates can successfully navigate the complex H-1B petition process. The limited number of available visas and lottery system makes advance planning essential when targeting and nominating the best possible foreign candidates for critical specialty occupation roles.