U.S. businesses may use the H-1B visa program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, including, but not limited to: scientists, engineers, or computer programmers. 65,000 H-1B visas may be awarded each year; 20,000 H-1B visas are reserved for foreign nationals with a U.S. master’s degree or higher.

In general, H-1B visas are used to hire foreign professionals. And employers may seek an H-1B visa to hire any foreign national who has at least a bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent) if that foreign national will work in a specialty occupation. A specialty occupation is a job that requires a theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. However, foreign nationals who do not have bachelor’s degrees may still qualify by showing years of progressive experience in a specialty occupation.

H-1B visas are issued for an initial maximum period of three years. H-1B visa extensions may be obtained up to an additional three years, for a total maximum period of stay of six years. The actual period of initial admission and any extension depends on the employer’s stated need. Although H-1B visas are temporary, H-1B visa holders may petition for lawful permanent resident status and work for employers long-term.

H-1B Petitions for the 2015 Fiscal Year Cap Season are due April 1, 2015.