Josef Auboeck

As an international graduate student, Josef navigated the complicated U.S. visa process that led to his current role at a U.S. based private equity firm.

What You Need to Know About H-1B Processing Time

If you didn’t already know, the H-1B visa allows companies and employers in the United States to temporarily employ workers from other countries in specialty occupations. These occupations typically account for the information technology sector in the United States. According to the United States Department of Labor, individuals who apply for this status need a four year bachelor’s degree from an accredited United States college/university or equivalent to qualify.


When applying for the H-1B work visa it is important to account for the unpredictable processing time. This processing time could take a few weeks or months. The H-1B process can seem daunting at first, but it doesn’t have to be. In this blog, we provide information about the processing time and what to expect when applying for the H-1B work visa.

Estimated H-1B Processing Time in 2021


In 2021, it is estimated that the standard H-1B processing time can take 3 months to a 1 year to be approved. Then the receipt for applying typically takes 3 to 21 days to arrive. One way around this lengthy processing time and waiting period is H-1B premium processing, which can speed the approval process up to 1 to 15 days.


However, the premium processing route is around $2,500 more expensive. If premium processing is being used and for some reason the application has not been processed in 15 days, the fee will be refunded in full. Additionally, with premium processing, the receipt for applying is usually sent in 1 to 3 days but can take up to 21 days to arrive. It is important to remember that paying for premium processing does not help you get approved, rather it provides an answer sooner.


It is important to note that during the Coronavirus Pandemic, the H-1B visa process has maintained its processing times and has not seen impacts from government shutdowns.

Longer Processing Times and Denial Rates


In some cases, the H-1B visa processing time can be longer than previously mentioned. If this happens to you, your application may be stuck in the processing stage. To get answers on the status and what is making the application take longer to process, you can contact your employer or attorney to ask them to put in a service request with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).


To do this, you will need your receipt and the date when your case was filed. If for some reason, you are experiencing a longer processing time, doing this might help resolve the issue sooner and get your application moving again. You, yourself, can also check the case processing time on the USCIS website by inputting the form and field office information from a form you can find here.


With every H-1B visa application, there is a chance of being denied. Understanding denial and approval rates can allow you to make educated choices when applying for jobs. Denial rates have shown that consulting companies have a lower rate of H-1B approvals in comparison to other companies. The table below shows examples of companies with estimated low or high rates for approvals and denials.


Company Approval Rate H-1B Lottery or Transfer Approval Rate H-1B Extension Approval Rate Denial Rates
Cognizant 68% (low) 38% (low) 71% (low) 52% (high)
Capgemini 60% (low) 20% (low) 74% (low) 27% (mid)
Cummin 97% (high) 96% (high) 95% (high) 2.17% (low)
Google 98% (high) 99% (high) 99% (high) 15% (mid)


This chart shows just a few examples of companies with low or high approval and denial numbers. Before applying to a company, where you will need a H-1B visa, it can be helpful to know the odds of whether you will get approved or not. Additionally, knowing this information may influence where you choose to apply to or where you choose not to apply to.


Helpful Tools and Resources


You do not have to feel alone while going through the H-1B visa application process, especially when you are waiting during the processing time. There are tools and resources that can help guide you throughout the process.


Case Status Checker: This tool helps you check your case status online and all you need to check the status is your receipt number.

Reports and Studies: These resources allow you to learn more about the inner workings of visa application processing, including the H-1B visa application approval process and processing time.


If you are looking for more helpful tools or resources throughout the H-1B process, USCIS offers a variety of tools and resources here.


How to Know if You Are Approved and What Comes After


The H-1B visa process can take some time, specifically anywhere between days to weeks to a year. If USCIS approves your H-1B visa application, your employer should receive the petition receipt and forward it to you. On this document, you will find the petition receipt number. This number is important for keeping track of your case and approval. This number can also be used to check the status of your case on the USCIS website throughout the processing time. Once you have received your official approval, you can begin to schedule your stamping interview.


Waiting is never easy, but it is important to stay positive throughout the waiting process until you are approved. If you begin to feel anxious because it has been awhile since you heard anything, don’t hesitate to look up your case number and see where your application is in the application process. Doing this might also allow you to make an educated estimate on how much longer it could take for you to get an answer. The H-1B visa application process and processing time does not have to be daunting if you approach it one step at a time.

Dr. Nazir Savji

As an international student, Dr. Savji navigated the US visa process throughout his training before becoming Cardiovascular Disease Fellow at Johns Hopkins University.

H-1B Wage Levels 2021: Guide and FAQ

A group of people talking

H-1B wage levels are important to understand, especially for international students looking to obtain an H-1B visa. What are H-1B wage levels, how do you find them, and why do you need to know about them? Here’s all of the information you’ll need to understand H-1B wage levels and how they affect H-1B visa applications.  


What Are H-1B Wage Levels?


Also called prevailing wages, H-1B wage levels describe the average wage employees earn in specific areas. Different jobs have their own H-1B wage levels — this data comes from the Foreign Labor Application Data Center, which stores information about jobs all over the country.

Different jobs have different levels of income, and they get ranked from level one to level four, four being the highest. Let’s look at what these levels mean:

H-1B Wage Level 1 is the entry-level wage for H-1B workers who have a basic understanding of performing the job’s duties. The level one wage is in the 17th percentile.

H-1B Wage Level 2 is the next step up. H-1B workers with relevant education and experience usually fall into this category. Level two corresponds to the 34th percentile.

H-1B Wage Level 3 makes up the 50th percentile. This H-1B wage level is given to experienced employees who have a deeper understanding of the job only attainable through years of experience. This wage level may include management work.

H-1B Wage Level 4 is the final level and corresponds to the 67th percentile of H-1B workers. The level four H-1B wage is reserved for competent workers who are experts in their field and typically comes with high-level management responsibilities.


Why H-1B Wages Are Important


  The USCIS and the Department of Labor work together to grant H-1B visas to protect workers from being exploited by unfair labor practices. Because of this, anyone who wants to work abroad in the U.S. must pass the Labor Condition Application (LCA) test before they can accept a job offer or obtain an H-1B visa. One of the primary purposes of this test is to determine a worker’s H-1B wage level to ensure that they get paid fairly regarding their level of education and experience.


H-1B Wage Level Requirements for LCA


  When applying for a job from abroad, your H-1B wage level determines what your salary will be; high wage levels mean a higher salary. Here’s the most crucial part: you cannot earn less than your determined H-1B wage level for your particular job in a specified area. If you earn less than your prevailing wage, you won’t be eligible for LCA approval.

Your H-1B wage level is a determining factor and primary requirement for applying for an H-1B visa. This is because H-1B visas get reserved for individuals with specific knowledge and skills that will benefit the country. Lower wage levels, like H-1B level one wages, are typically only given when there is a shortage of a desirable skill in the area you are applying.

If you’re applying for an H-1B job, it’s important to ensure that its wage level supports your case for an H-1B visa. One of the most common reasons for H-1B visas to get denied is when a job you apply for offers too low of an H-1B wage level for the position.  


Related: An International Student’s Guide to Optimize Your Job Search Strategy  


Finding the H-1B Wage Level for LCA


three people sitting at a table


When you’re looking for H-1B wage jobs, it’s essential to know how to find the prevailing wage for the job and area you are applying for. Here’s the easy way to find the wage levels in your area:


Head over to the website of the Foreign Labor Certification Data Center. You’ll see a tab labeled “Wage Library,” and if you open it, you’ll see a search tool.

Now you can add the details of your job and area into the search field to find the specific one you are looking for. If you’re unsure about what industry the job you want to apply for is in, you can browse all of them. While that might take more time, it’s the best way to go about it if you aren’t 100% sure what the job would get classified as.

Once you’ve finished searching and found the job, industry, and area you were looking for, you should see detailed information about the H-1B wage level offered for the position. You can then compare that to the prevailing wage level to see if that job will work for your H-1B visa.


FAQ: H-1B Wage Levels


Let’s break down all of that information into easy answers. Here are the most commonly asked questions about prevailing wages with simplified explanations:


Question: What exactly are prevailing wages and H-1B wages?


First off, prevailing wages and H-1B wages mean the same thing; they are interchangeable terms. These wages are the average amount paid to people working similar jobs in the same area. They are industry and location-specific.


Question: How are H-1B wages determined?


There are three primary factors that determine a prevailing or H-1B wage. They are:

The nature of the job offer.

The location of the job.

The skills, knowledge, and duties required for the job.


Question: Okay, so how does this all work?


Employers are required to pay employees the H-1B wage of the area (or the advertised wage, if it is higher). This allows workers to not have to worry about earning less than candidates with similar qualifications. Basically, H-1B wage levels protect the economy and job market while ensuring that workers get treated fairly.  


Related: Student Immigration Q&A  


H-1B Visas & Wage Levels

woman laughing in a room

It’s not uncommon for international students to apply for an H-1B visa, and understanding prevailing wage levels is essential for a successful application. This requires the approval of your LCA, and the job you apply for must be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.

You can use the information above to find the H-1B wage levels for the jobs you want to apply for in your specific area. Remember, to get approved for an H-1B visa; the job offer must pay a salary that matches or exceeds the wage level in its immediate location.  


Are you an international student looking for the tools to succeed? Check out Interstride for students to get everything you need from career opportunities and visa support to productivity tools and more!

Estefania Barnuevo

Hailing from Ecuador, Estefania is working on her MBA at Bentley University, after which she will join Novartis Pharmaceuticals in a Financial Development role.

Jukka Strand

With a B.S. From The London School of Economics and a Fullbright scholarship to Columbia, Jukka shares how he managed to navigate the finance world as an international student.

Yoon Choi

After earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s in textile design, Yoon landed at Nike where she is a Footwear Concept Designer.

José Ortega

After beginning his career at Bimbo Bakers in Mexico, José completed his MBA at UCLA, during which he scored an internship with Walmart Mexico. This internship coupled with José’s global experience and education led to his current role as VP of Central Operations of Walmart China.