Step-by-step H1B Process from Application to Decision and H1B Tracking


Once an H1B visa petition is filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the petitioner (a U.S. employer or sponsor) and the intended beneficiary (a foreign worker) have many questions in their minds.What are the important steps that must be followed during the entire process? What is the H1B case status of my application? Here’s a useful guide that answers many of these questions.

H1B Process Breakdown

Before learning about the actual H1B visa process steps, here’s a quick review of what happens before it:

  • Sponsors Meet Foreign Workers:

    Sponsors are the U.S. employers or companies who have specialty job positions to hirespecialized foreign employees. A foreign worker applies for a job, follows the entire selection procedure and gets the job if proved eligible. Here comes the need for a nonimmigrant worker visa and H1B is definitely the best option.

  • Meeting the Prevailing Wages Requirement:

    The employer who is ready to hire a foreign worker ensures that the job being offered will pay the minimum prevailing wage. The U.S. Department of Labor FLC data center provides information which will help an employer determine different and appropriate wage levels for H-1B.

  • Labor Condition Application:

    The employer must get a Labor Condition Application (LCA) approved from the Department of Labor. The application provides all necessary details about the H1B employment.

After these initial steps, the main steps of the H1B visa process include:

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Step 1: Filing the H1B Petition

The employer files the petition with the USCIS. It includes filing the Form I-129, attaching all required documents and paying the demanded fees. Here’s what you should know:

  • The petition must be filed with the USCIS service center Designated by Form I-129 Instructions. There are currently 3 services centers that process H-1B Petitions: California, Vermont, and Nebraska.
  • If the H-1B is a new, cap subject petition, then April 01 is the opening date for the petition receiving window. If it is a non-working day, the window opens on the next working day.
  • The fees include $460 (basic filing fee), $500 (fraud prevention fee) and ACWIA fee. This fee will vary based on the size of the employer. For companies with 25 or less full-time employees the fee is $750. For those companies with more than 25 full-time employees the fee is $1,500.
  • In case the employer or the foreign workers opt for premium processing of the application after it is selected in the lottery, an additional fee of $1,410 must be paid.

Step 2: USCIS H1B Lottery Conducted

As it has been the trend of past many years, the USCIS would conduct H1B lottery as the number of petitions received exceeds the H1b visa caps (65,000 for regular quota and 20,000 for U.S. Master’s quota). There are two possible outcomes for your application:

  • If selected in the lottery, it moves forward for H1B processing
  • If not selected, the application is returned to the petitioner along with the fees

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Step 3: USCISH1B Case Processing

H1B cases filed under regular and premium processing are processed in the same manner. What differs is the H1B visa processing time – 15 calendar days for premium processing and 4-6 months for regular processing. Also, there are minor differences in the way the USCIS interacts with the regular and premium petitioners. For example, the status when the processing begins would be:

  • Case Was Received (for regular processing)

  • Case Was Received and A Receipt Notice Was Emailed (for premium processing)

The outcomes of H1B case processing include:

  • Case is approved which means the beneficiary gets approved to work for the petitioner. The next step for the beneficiary would be to appear for an H1B visa interview at a U.S. consulate.
  • Case is denied which means the application has been rejected. The decision notice is mailed to the petitioner.
  • Request for additional evidence which means that the USCIS demands additional information from the petitioner. For example, the agency might demand more information/evidence to ensure that the beneficiary’s qualification is relevant to the job position in question. Once the USCIS receives the requested information, the processing resumes and the decision is taken to approve or deny the case.

H1B Tracking

The petitioner or the foreign worker can easily check H1B status online. Here are the steps to follow:

It is also possible to register with the USCIS to receive important notifications about status updates via email. You may find one of the following statuses:

  • Case Was Received

  • Case Was Received and A Receipt Notice Was Emailed

  • Request for Additional Evidence Notice Mailed

  • Response to Request for Evidence Received

  • Case Was Approved (for regular processing)

  • Case Was Approved and My Decision Was Emailed (for premium processing)

  • Decision Notice Mailed

  • Name Was Updated (if there was a clerical mistake)

  • Fees Will Be Refunded (if the petitioner paid more fee than demanded)

In addition, there are many online sources that offer H1B trackers that not only update the processing progress for each and every application but also the trends for each year. If you see USCIS case status approved, you should prepare for other formalities. If not, consult an immigration attorney for guidance to improve the approval chances for the next year.