The H-1B Visa program was established to allow U.S. employers to employ foreign-born professionals in the U.S. on a temporary basis. In order to qualify for an H-1B Visa, the U.S. employer’s proposed position must qualify as a specialty occupation. For purposes of the H-1B program, the term “specialty occupation” means an occupation that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States. This category is currently limited by statute to no more than 65,000 new admissions each year. This does not include extensions or amendments of existing H-1B Visas.
The initial H-1B Visa may be approved for up to three years, and extensions are permitted for an additional three years thereafter, for a total of six years in H-1B status. Under certain circumstances, it may be possible to extend an H-1B Visa beyond the sixth year.
The H-1B Visa is employer specific, meaning that the holder of an H-1B Visa can only work for the sponsoring employer. In the event that a candidate for an H-1B Visa is already in the United States on an H-1B Visa for an unrelated company, the candidate may generally begin working for a subsequent employer upon the filing of an H-1B petition by the second employer to transfer the H-1B Visa. If the H-1B petition to transfer the visa to the second company is denied, then work authorization immediately ceases.
In the event that the candidate for an H-1B Visa is outside of the United States, the candidate cannot begin working for the employer until the H-1B petition is approved, the candidate applies for and obtains and H-1B Visa from a U.S. Consulate and the candidate enters the United States on the H-1B Visa.
The time that it takes to obtain an H-1B Visa can vary greatly. It generally takes between 2-5 months for the USCIS to make a decision on an application. It may take even longer
Essential information to file an H-1B Visa extension is offered here:
H-1B Information Checklist