What is the H-1B Visa Program?

The H-1B visa program is something that significantly affects many tech companies. While the major tech companies like Amazon and Google may be most impacted by this program, they certainly aren’t the only ones.

When any company, even a small one, sponsors a specially trained or educated employee from a foreign country to come to the U.S. and work for them, they’re likely going to be using the H-1B visa program.

On the employer end, working on the H-1B visa allows them to work for some of the world’s leading companies, come to the U.S. at least for a period of time, gain invaluable experience and potentially be able to send money to family abroad.

On the employer end, there are some things to know, however. The following provides a general overview of the H-1B visa program and how it can be relevant to tech companies throughout the U.S.


The H-1B visa program is a way for employers to hire nonimmigrant workers in specialty occupations. To be eligible for this program, the employee has to have what is defined as specialized ability.

Most applicants for the H-1B visa program will have at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent. If the applicant doesn’t have that level of education, they typically need to have 12 years’ work experience or more in their field.

The outlined objective of this visa program is to help employers who can’t find employees with the necessary skills or experience in the U.S.

If someone participates in the H-1B visa program, they are strictly limited in that they can only be employed by the employer who sponsors them.

Employee Protections

There are guidelines in place for how employers pay nonimmigrant employees who work for them under the H-1B visa program.

For example, under the program employers must pay wages to the H-1B nonimmigrant workers that are at least equivalent to the wage paid by the employer to other employees with a similar level of experience or similar qualifications.

Otherwise, employers should be paying the prevailing wage for what other people in similar occupations in the area are making. Ultimately, it should come down to whichever is greater.

What Is a Specialty Occupation?

What constitutes a specialty occupation can include a variety of types of jobs and areas of expertise. Just a few include chemistry, computing, engineering, medicine and health, law, accounting, technical writing, and architecture.

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H-1B Visa Lottery

There is an annual H-1B visa lottery as well. There is a cap on the number of high-skilled workers that can come to the U.S. each year under the H-1B visa program. Then, if the cap is hit during the first five days, there is a lottery which determines which employer petitions will be processed. The lottery process is random and computer-generated.

Finally, while the H-1B program most heavily affects Silicon Valley and tech companies, other companies and sectors across the U.S. do use it to fill positions that are in high-demand.

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