On January 1, 2004, the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement took effect and created a special class of nonimmigrant visas for Singaporean citizens—the H1B1. This type of visa qualifies only Singaporean citizens as principal applicants. The United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act also took place simultaneously, making Chile citizens in specialty occupations eligible for the H-1B1 visa. Successful Chile H1B1 applicants can work and live in the United States, and their dependents, including their spouses, kids, and other family members, may qualify for H-4 visas. California Immigration Attorney can help you determine whether you are eligible for this visa program and ensure you have maximum chances of gaining admission into the United States.
Immigration laws and policies change frequently. In September 2018, the U.S. renegotiated the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) treaty to pave the way for the new USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) treaty. There is also a Free Trade Agreement with Chile and Singapore, and the new treaties have significant effects on the set immigration policies. Currently, professionals from Chile and Singapore qualify for H-1B1 visas.
H-1B1 Program Overview
Through the H-1B1 program, Chile and Singapore citizens in specialty occupations can gain temporary employment in the United States. This program is open to 1,400 Chile nationals and 5,400 Singapore nationals each year. Usually, a visa is valid for a year, although one can request extensions obtainable in one-year increments.
Thanks to the Pub. L. 108-78 (United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act) and the Pub. L. 108-77(United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act) Chile and Singapore nationals can now benefit from the new nonimmigrant classification H-1B1".
The H-1B1 is not so different from the H-1B classification in that it is reserved for specialty occupations. Moreover, it shares more than a few similarities with the "NAFTA" TN classification in that no prior petition is required. An H-1B1 professional employer doesn’t have to file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services before a potential employee applies for a visa. The alien applicant merely needs to present their application for the H-1B1 classification directly to the Embassy/consular officer during the visa application.
What is "Specialty Occupation?"
It is crucial to understand the statutory meaning of "specialty occupation" if you want to benefit from the new H-1B1 category. This entry is only available for nonimmigrant professionals who work within “specialty occupations." Therefore, a specialty occupation is a position that requires:
- Hands-on and theoretic application of a body of particular knowledge
- Applicants must have a bachelor's degree or a higher level of education. An equivalent of the same academic credentials can also allow you to secure specialty occupations within the United States.
The above is the regulatory definition of specialty occupation in layman language, and you can find the statute in the verbatim at 8 CFR §214.2.
It is also essential to know what the Free Trade Agreement accepts as alternative credentials within particular professions. For instance, Singaporean and Chilean nationals within the Disaster Relief and Management Consultancy occupations who don’t hold bachelor degrees may still be eligible for H-1B1 visas if they have specialized training and at least 3-years of experience in the field.
Specialty occupations include but are not limited to:
- Physical sciences
- Computer sciences
- Management and human resources
- Medicine and health care
H1-B1 Visa Requirements for Employers
When it comes to applying for specialty occupation visas and the H-1B1 visa specifically, a lot hinges on a potential employer’s efforts. If you want to hire a Chilean or Singaporean professional, there are procedures to follow, documents to file, and fees to pay for you to sponsor an applicant. They include:
- Ensure the Chilean or Singaporean national you choose for a specific job position meets the required scholastic and experience criteria for specialized occupations
- Provide labor verification for the foreign workers by filing an LCA (Labor Condition Application), ETA Form 9035, or Form ETA-9035E with the DOL (Department of Labor). Note that it is illegal for aliens to begin working if they don’t have an approved LCA. This form certifies that you will:
- Offer the prevailing wage.
- Provide a work environment that meets the set U.S laws
- Notify the government once the set work assignment is completed
- Provide the DOL with wage information and the foreign employers’ tax information holding specialty positions in the country.
- Settle the applicable fees, same as the fees that apply for the H-1B visa. The only difference in the costs is that premium processing is unavailable for H-1B1 visas.
- Provide the Department of Labor with documents that prove that a specific employee is a citizen of Chile or Singapore by handing over a copy of their passport.
Note that an employee can only begin the visa application process once an employer receives LCA certification from the DOL and has it approved.
Main Requirements for an H-1B1 Visa (Employee)
As mentioned earlier, the H-1B1 visa is similar to the H-1B visa in that it is reserved for nonimmigrants in specialty occupations. However, the H-1B1 visa offers an added benefit of being reserved strictly for Chilean and Singaporean citizens, which means its quota doesn’t run out quickly. While the United States only provides an annual limit of 6,800 H-1B1 visas, this figure does not include extension applications or applications for spouses and children.
- Here are the eligibility criteria for the Hi-B1 visa
- Must be a Chile or Singapore national
- Must qualify for a specialty occupation that requires theoretic and hands-on application of a body of expert knowledge
- Must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a particular field or its
- Must not be an independent contractor (self-employed)
- Must have the intent of only holding an employment position temporarily within the United States
Supporting Documents Required When Apply For an H-1B1 Visa
It is imperative to satisfy the above requirements. Additionally, applicants of the H-1B1 visa need the following items and supporting documents.
Official Job Offer Letter
One of the main requirements for H-1B1 visa applications is having the qualifications to work in specialty occupations. Therefore, you will need an official job letter issued by a U.S. employer that clearly states the details of the temporary employment position you will be holding. This includes the description of the company offering employment, your qualifications, job description, duration of employment, salary, and occupation benefits, just to mention a few.
Labor Condition Application (“LCA")
The labor verification requirements under the H-1B1 program are identical to those of the usual H-1B visas. An employer must provide labor verification for alien workers by filing a Labor Condition Application ("LCA"), ETA Form 9035E, or ETA Form 9035 with the Department of Labor (DOL). After verification, your prospective employer should send you signed copies of the certified LCA and your job offer letter.
During the visa application process, be sure to provide this certified LCA copy as proof of filing. Also, ensure that your employer marks it as "H-1B1 Singapore” or “H-1B1 Chile."
Under the H-1B1 classification, professionals from Chile and Singapore are permitted to enter the United States temporarily. In the Free Trade Agreement for both countries, the term “temporary entry” into the United States is defined as the lack of intention to make the U.S. your permanent home. That said, applicants must prove to the consular officer that they only intend to make their stay in the U.S. temporary.
For instance, your job offer should show that you will only be in the country on a temporary work assignment. This means your employment will end within a predetermined period, after which you will exit the United States. Fortunately, you can always explore the option of extending your stay, as long as you can still demonstrate your lack of intention to establish permanent residence in the United States.
With the H-1B1, nonimmigrant professionals are only required to obtain a license to practice after they gain admission into the U.S. Because licensing is a post-entry requirement, it is subject to implementation by the sub-federal or state authorities within the Country.
However, it would be of added benefit if your employer can obtain proof of licensure to practice in a particular professional in the United States on your behalf. Your employer can send this to you along with the official job offer letter and other crucial supporting documents. In case this is not possible, the Embassy cannot deny your H-1B1 application on the grounds that you don’t have a ready license to practice in the U.S.
H1B1 Validity Period and Renewal
H-1B1 certifications remain valid for 3 years —the employment period specified on the LCA (Labor Condition Application). However, admission to the U.S on an H-1B1 visa is only valid for a year. One can apply for renewals and extensions that are offered in 1-year increments. After the initial stay, you can renew your H-1B1 visa status indefinitely, although you must file a new 2-year LCA after every 3rd extension.
Generally speaking, obtaining extensions is not much of a hassle as long as you can still demonstrate that you have no intention of permanently working or living in the United States. A Singapore or Chile national can demonstrate temporary intent of being in the U.S. by:
- Providing proof of residence in their native country
- Demonstrating that they have no intention of leaving the residence in question
- Show intent to leave the United States once their H-1B1 status expires.
There are two simple ways to renew your H-1B1 visa:
- Your employer can mail the renewal application 4 to 6 months before your stay expires.
- An H-1B1 visa holder can apply for a new visa from a U.S Embassy situated abroad.
What If You Want To Relocate With Your Dependents?
The children and spouses of H-1B1 visa holders qualify for H-4 visas. It is important to note that other dependents, such as aging parents, may not be eligible for this visa. However, they could apply for a tourist visa and visit an H-1B1 visa holder for a temporary period.
It is crucial for children and spouses who wish to follow or accompany an H-1B1 visa holder to submit a recent photo and visa application for each dependent. Spouses will also need to have copies of their marriage certificate and the birth certificates of their children.
Two circumstances may make it vital for you to apply for an H-1B1 visa transfer. They include:
You Have an H-1B1 Visa but Want to Switch Employers
When an H-1B1 visa holder wishes to change employers, the new employer must go through the same procedures as the first one. He or she ought to file Form I797A with the Department of Labor to obtain an LCA certification. Note that you will need to have your transfer approved before you start working for the new company.
While the above procedure of seeking a status transfer is the most common, there is another alternative. An applicant can visit a U.S Embassy situated abroad and obtain a new H-1B1 visa stamp for the employer’s new LCA number and name.
You Desire To Transfer To Different Type of Visa
In this case, it is necessary to handle the visa application process afresh. If you want to transfer to an H-1B visa, you must file a USCIS petition and obtain new LCA certification.
It remains imperative to understand that while an H-1B1 visa can apply for other types of visas, they cannot apply for an American Green Card. Doing so can put your visa status at risk and cause deportation. Unlike the H-1B, H-1B1 visas are not under a “dual intent” classification. One of the critical requirements that must be satisfied to qualify for an H1B1 visa is your intent to remain in the United States temporarily. The safest way to go about this without exiting the U.S is to first apply for another type of visa like the H-1B.
H-1B1 Filing Procedure
Once you have gathered your certificates and other supporting documents from your prospective employer, you have what it takes to demonstrate that you qualify for the H-1B1 visa. From this point, you can start the application process from the U.S Embassy in your country, Chile, or Singapore.
Step 1 - Complete Form DS-160
For the H-1B1 visa application and the H-4 visa (for an H-1B1 dependent), you must complete Form DS-160 before the visa appointment. You can do this on the U.S. Department of State website, and you will be required to upload your digital photo during the e-filing (electronic-filing) process. After the first attempt to upload the photograph, you will receive a barcode that you need to book the visa appointment.
Step 2 - Book the Visa Appointment
The whole idea of booking a visa appointment is for you to receive a visa interview date. The most important thing is to have your Form ETA 9035 and various other supporting documents ready before the visa interview. This includes:
- Proof of meeting the set occupational and academic requirements for specialty occupations
- Proof that your employer filed an LCA with the DOL
- Certified form ETA-9035 as proof of filing
- Evidence that any applicable fee imposed was settled by a potential employer.
- Proof of settling the MRV fee
- Documents that show your stay will only be temporary
- Contract of employment
Give us a call and let us lend a hand in ensuring that all the documents you need are in order.
Step 3 - Settle the Visa Fees
A fee of $190 is imposed for the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee. Once you settle this payment, you can now submit Form DS-160 to receive a confirmation code and barcode that you should print out together with the completed application and present it to the consulate or U.S. embassy during your visa interview. On this date, make sure you also bring a hardcopy of the same photo you upload on Form DS-160.
Step 4 - Attend the Visa Interview
After booking an appointment and paying the visa fees, you will receive a mail appointment notice. The notice will contain specific info about the interview procedure, so you must review it carefully. Typically, the interview doesn’t last more than a few minutes, although you should get to the embassy on time.
One of the key reasons to work with a California immigration lawyer is that the lawyer will lend a hand with more than just ensuring your documents are in order. You may also need legal advice on answering questions commonly asked during the visa interview. For instance, the consular officer wants to know about your current job and the nature of the United States’ work position. He or she may also ask about your work experience and academic background. Nothing is as vital as ensuring that the information you provide is consistent with the supporting documents’ data.
Once the interview is over, the consular officer will inform you about your visa application status. It could be denied, approved, or additional administrative processing may be necessary before a decision is made. If the visa application is approved, your passport and new visa will be sent to you in a few days.
In case the consular officer denies your visa application or notifies you that additional administrative processing is needed, contact us immediately. We will review your paperwork and address issues that may have caused your application’s delay or denial.
Application Processing Time
If you receive a notice that your application needs additional “administrative processing,” it may take a few weeks or months for your visa to be officially denied or approved. This often happens when an applicant has been arrested in the past or has a specific political or professional background. However, whether an application should be reviewed or not is entirely at the consular officer’s mercy. That is why we don’t recommend making any non-changeable plans until your visa is approved, and your passport returned. This takes about 2 to 5 days from your visa interview date.
NB: Embassies and consulates differ in their visa application procedures. We strive to keep abreast of these changes to provide the most accurate information to our clients during a consultation. It is always a good idea to speak to a competent Immigration attorney before booking the visa appointment. Also, you can check out the U.S. consulate website in your country if you need more guidance.
Limitations with H1B1 Visas
The H-1B1 visa is an appealing option for Chile and Singapore nationals. However, certain limitations make this option unsuitable for certain applicants. These limitations include:
There’s The Limit on Visas
The USCIS (the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) can only give 6,800 H-1B1 visas to Chile and Singapore nationals yearly. This is according to the Chile and Singapore Free Trade Agreement. Even though this numeric limit is hardly reached, it is a limitation applicants should know.
Single Intent Visa
One of the main differences between an H-1B1 visa and an H-1B is that only the latter is a dual intent visa. The former restricts one from applying for a Green Card or permanent residency in the United States. As a single intent visa, it only allows you to stay in the U.S. temporarily.
According to the 600-page rule book used by immigration officers at the American port of entries, H1B1 visa holders are only allowed an initial stay of one-year maximum. This timeline can be shorter if an LCA is not valid for a full year. Fortunately, you can go around this limitation by applying for an extension.
Find a California Immigration Attorney Near Me
Visa processing is complicated. This is irrespective of the type of visa you wish to obtain. One of the surest ways to enjoy a flawless process is to enlist the services of the California Immigration Attorney. We provide invaluable assistance to both H-1B1 visa applicants and potential employers. With an in-depth understanding of different visa options and their requirements, we have just what you need to help you achieve your immigration goals. Contact us today at 424-789-8809 for more details.