According to the U.S. Department of State, close to 800,000 skilled professionals have entered the United States with H-1B visas over the course of the last six years. Based on their specialized skills and education, the U.S. permits H-1B workers and their families to live and work in the U.S. for a set period. Since this classification was created to fill the labor needs of U.S. companies, the privileges associated with this status are specific to the employer that sponsors the H-1B worker. While the demand for H-1B workers remains at an all-time high, the U.S. government caps the number of H-1B visas that are granted each year.
Employment-based Visas Should not be a Trap
For most workers and employers, the H-1B program is a perfect fit. U.S. employers benefit from the international talent pool and foreign nationals are able to advance their careers in the American economy. In certain instances, however, H-1B holders face unexpected challenges that make employment with their sponsor less than optimal. Other times, H-1B holders may encounter opportunities that are more attractive while they are tied to their current H-1B sponsor. Similarly, employers who want to hire highly skilled foreign workers may be prevented from hiring those who would be eligible for H-1B status but for the cap on the number of these visas.
Freedom of Movement for H-1B Visa Holders
Fortunately, H-1B holders are not trapped at their sponsor-employer, nor or are non-sponsor employers completely barred from hiring H-1Bs, even when the annual quota has been filled. Thanks to the portability provision provided by the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act, foreign workers may take their H-1B status with them should they choose to work for a new employer. This allows U.S. employers to hire the employees they need, and H-1B workers to seek optimal employment. Specifically, portability permits the following foreign nationals to work for a new sponsor employer:
- Current H-1B holders
- Former (last status was H-1B) holders during a period of authorized stay, even if they are not currently in H-1B status
While portability may open doors for current and former H-1B holders in the U.S. and for the American employers seeking to hire them, a highly skilled attorney is often necessary to meet the government’s requirements. If you are a current or former H-1B holder, or an employer seeking to hire such a person, the Law Office of Maud Poudat, P.A. is a one-stop source for all your immigration-related needs.