On January 1, 2004, the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (“USSFTA”) came into effect. USSFTA created the H1-B1 visa for Singaporeans working in specialty positions.
What is the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement Professional (“H-1B1”) Visa?
The H1-B1 visa allows Singaporeans to work in the United States in specialty occupations.
Who Can Obtain an H1-B1 Visa?
The H1B1 visa is available exclusively to Singaporean and Chilean Nationals.
Permanent residents of Singapore are not eligible for an H1-B1 visa. A non-Singaporean spouse and children of a Singaporean H1B1 visa holder are entitled to live in the United States on an H4 visa.
Can a Singaporean Entrepreneur use the H1B1 Visa to Open a Business in the United States?
Singaporean entrepreneurs and business owners do use the H1B1 to open a business in the United States.
For some business owners and entrepreneurs, the E2 Visa For Singaporeans can be a more suitable visa. Please call us or speak to an immigration lawyer experienced in assorting Singaporean businesses.
Other Singaporean businesses will find the L1 Visa Services for Singaporeans more applicable.
Still, other highly accomplished Singaporeans may find the O1 visa and EB1A visa more appropriate.
Our Singapore US business lawyers and US legal team are available to talk through these and other options with clients.
How do Established and Public Singaporean Businesses use the H1B1 Visa?
We are privileged to represent a number of large businesses in Singapore, some of which are major public companies. The H1B1 visa frequently forms part of our clients’ US immigration strategy.
Are there a Limited Number of H1-B1 Visas Available?
Each year 1,400 H1-B1 visas are available for Chilean Nationals and 5,400 H1-B1 visas are available for Singaporean Nationals.
These numerical limits on the number of H1B1 visas issued each year have never been reached.
There are plenty of H1B1 visas available for qualified Singaporean and Chilean Nationals.
Limited Availability of H1B Visa Gives H1B1 an Advantage
The H1B visa cap has resulted in an annual H1B visa lottery. Simply stated there are not enough H1B visas available. As a result, most Singaporean H1B visa applicants will be disappointed.
As the Singaporean H1B1 visa cap is unlikely to ever be reached the H1B1 visa is much more easily available and can be relied upon for planning purposes.
Qualifying for an H1B1 Visa
- An H1-B1 holder must engage in a “Specialty Occupation”. A Specialty Occupation is one which requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge.
Specialty Occupations include jobs in mathematics, engineering, computer sciences physical sciences, healthcare, medicine, education, biotechnology, and various business professions such as general management, public relations and human resources.
- A US employer needs to be available to sponsor the H1B1 worker in their US role.
- An H1B1 worker must have a post-secondary degree or its equivalent with at least four years of work experience in the area of specialization.
- H1B1 visa does not allow the foreign national to be self-employed or an independent contractor.
- The period of employment in the U.S. must be temporary, so the foreign national must demonstrate non-immigrant intent. H1B1 visas are only valid in one-year increments, as opposed to 3-year validity periods in H-1B visa status.
Key Advantage of H1B1 Visa over H1B: The Application Process
Unlike with the H-1B visa, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) are not involved with the H1B1 application process. An H1B1 visa candidate can apply for their H1B1 visa directly at the applicable US Consulate by submitting form DS160 together with the package of documents supplied by the US employer.
The H1B visa can take many more months than an H1B1 visa application owing to the involvement of USCIS.
H1B1 Application Process
1. Prevailing Wage Determination
The sponsoring employer obtains a Prevailing Wage determination. This is typically done through either: (a) the Department of Labor (“DOL”) iCERT system; or (b) an independent survey.
2. Labor Condition Application (“LCA”)
The employer files and with the US Department of Labor.
3. Visa Application
Once the DOL has approved the LCA the US employer will work to prepare a non-immigrant visa application. The H1B1 visa application typically includes the following:
a. A detailed job offer letter. This letter includes salary information and the initial dates of employment.
b. Evidence of the prevailing wage;
c. Proof the employer is able to pay the required wage;
d. A summary letter of support
e. Evidence that the foreign national has maintained his or her immigration status while in the United States; and
f. Evidence of the employee’s relevant education and experience for the position.
4. Change of Status
If the visa applicant is in the United States the employer may apply for a Change of Status using I-129.
5. Visa Application
If the potential H1B1 worker is outside the United States the employer will forward the necessary materials for the worker to apply for a visa. This application is made using form DS 160.
After the DS160 has been filed the potential H1B1 worker will attend an interview at the applicable US consulate. If successful, the worker will be issued an H1B1 visa.
7. A successful H1B1 visa applicant uses the H1B1 visa to enter the United States.
H-1B1 Visa Fees
The fees payable for an H1B1 visa include:
- Form DS160 Visa Application Fee
Currently USD 205.
- Visa Issuance Fee – or reciprocity fee, which is determined based on your location. You can whether you have to pay it, and the amount in the Department of State.
Authorized Period of Stay
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services typically approves H1B1 petitions for a one-year term which can be extended.
H1B1 and Permanent Residency
There are a number of ways to transition the H1B1 visa to Permanent Residency (or a green card) in the United States.
The fact that the H1B1 visa is NOT a visa of dual intent requires some planning. Essentially it is unlawful to enter the US using an H1B1 visa with the intention of remaining in the US permanently. That is not the case with the H1 visa which is a visa of “dual intent”.
Singaporeans and Chileans coming to the United States on an H1-B1 visa need to demonstrate that they do not intend to remain permanently in the United States. Those coming to the US on an H-1 visa can harbor a long-term intention of remaining in the United States permanently.
More Information: Come Meet Us in Singapore and the USA
Please contact our US immigration law firm for additional discussion of this visa category. Other options such as changing from H1B1 status to H-1B status to facilitate the process of filing for permanent resident status in the U.S. through PERM also exist.
While our law firm maintains offices across the United States our office in Irvine, California is staffed with people who have lived in Singapore and specialize in assisting Singaporean entrepreneurs and businesses to succeed in the United States.