If you are an immigrant living in Pennsylvania, you may wish to look into the H-1B visa program as a way to gain long-term temporary access into the United States by one or more of your family members. Understand, however, that your family member will need to have a college degree or the equivalent thereof, plus superior job skills to qualify for this visa category

You also need to understand that the H-1B visa category grants your family member only temporary nonimmigrant residency in the U.S. to work in one of the following so-called STEM fields

  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Math

How the H-1B program works

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services controls the number of H-1B visas available each year. Unfortunately, in 1990, the U.S. Congress set a cap of 65,000 H-1B visa numbers available each year, plus an additional 20,000 visa numbers available for foreign professional workers who have graduated from a U.S. university with a master’s or doctorate degree.

Each year on the first business day of April, U.S. employers seeking highly qualified and highly skilled workers submit petitions to the USCIS. As you might expect, with only 85,000 total visas available, the demand for workers far exceeds their availability, or at least the availability of H-1B visas. In each of the past five years, it took only five days to reach the visa cap. Consequently, the USCIC holds a lottery to determine which employer petitions it will process.

Time limits

Should your family member be fortunate enough to receive an H-1B visa, (s)he will be classified as a temporary nonimmigrant worker in a specialty occupation. As such, (s)he likely will be able to stay in the U.S. for a minimum of three years, with the possibility of having his or her H-1B visa extended for an additional three years. During this time, however, (s)he may be able to adjust his or her immigration status so as to be able to remain in the U.S. permanently.