Specialty Positions for H-1B Teachers
The current teacher shortage in the United States is a serious problem. It’s often hard to find competent and skilled instructors in positions from primary levels through higher education institutions. Many employers are turning to foreign professionals to fill the positions.
Before extending the official job offer to you, your potential employer must have the position approved by the Department of Labor. Once they submit the Labor Condition Application and it’s approved, you can begin ensuring you’re eligible for an H-1B visa.
Requirements for the H-1B Teacher Visa
In the US, teachers need a bachelor’s degree or higher. You must meet the US requirements to teach in the position you’re applying for. Your attorney can help you determine the district requirements and ensure you meet them. This could be an essential issue if you didn’t attend an accredited US school.
For a foreign degree to be the equivalent of a US bachelor’s degree, you must have at least three full years of experience in a relevant position per year of education toward the bachelor’s degree.
In addition to the degree or relevant experience, you’ll need to prove:
● That you have any required license or permission to work in the educational sector of the specialty occupation job offer, or that you meet all the conditions required for that license.
● That the educational institution has an approved LCA from the Department of Labor showing that you’ll be receiving equitable wages comparable with other native workers with similar qualifications and experience in the geographic area.
● That you have an active passport and identifying documents.
These eligibility criteria move you forward in the H-1B visa approval process, but you will still have to be selected from the lottery if your employer isn’t covered under the cap exemption.
Lotteries and Cap Exemptions
The H-1B visa covers a vast assortment of skilled and unskilled laborers, depending on the category and specialty occupation. Because it’s such an in-demand document, USCIS chooses the approved petitions through a lottery process.
The only exceptions to this are through industries that meet the cap exemption. As a teacher, you may fall under employers in the cap-exempt category, which speeds up your approval process. Suppose your job offer is through a higher education institution, a government research center, or a nonprofit entity affiliated with those two organizations. In that case, you may not have to wait for the lottery selection process.
Some school districts also qualify as nonprofit entities. If the district is a not-for-profit organization with an Affiliation Agreement between the district and university, the specialty occupation offered by this district may be cap-exempt.
Otherwise, your petition will be placed in the lottery. If you have an advanced degree, you’ll be in the first selection of 20,000 petitions chosen, then placed in the second lottery if you’re not picked the first time. This gives you two chances to get approved.
Transferring and Extending Your Stay
It’s prevalent for a teacher to switch schools within the same district or transfer to another district nearby. Moving within the district, you don’t have to file anything with the USCIS. However, you must file a transfer petition if you’re attempting to transfer to another school district.
If you've filed a cap-exempt petition, you can only transfer to another cap-exempt institution. Proof of this is submitted through your Form I-129. As long as the district has been exempt from the annual quota or cap, you can transfer there. The district requirements for teachers vary. Talk to your immigration attorney before you accept a job offer anywhere other than where you were originally hired.
The H-1B visa provides you with a three-year initial stay, during which time it’s not uncommon for teachers to change positions. Since you can extend your stay for three more years, you will want to ensure you follow the guidelines if you move schools during those six years.
H-1B Visa Fees
Obtaining an H-1B visa can be expensive, but the employer pays most of these costs. The fees include:
● A $460 basic filing fee
● An ACWIA fee of $750 for employers with 25 or fewer employees or $1,500 for employers with more than 25 employees
● A $500 Fraud Prevention and Detection fee
If the school district or institution has over 50 employees, and half of them or more are on an H-1B visa, they must pay a Public Law 114-113 fee of $4,000.
You’ll be responsible for the DS-160 fee of $190 and any costs for your spouse and dependents to obtain an H4 visa to travel with you. You’ll also have to pay travel costs, biometric service fees of $85, and the optional premium processing fee to expedite the petition’s entry into the lottery.
Whether your specialty occupation is cap exempt or not, you still have a lot of paperwork to wade through to obtain your H-1B visa. Any mistakes or misplaced documentation can set your request back weeks or months.
As a teacher, your individual circumstances make the difference in what kind of visa you qualify for and whether you’ll be able to obtain approval for the new job. Let Visa2US help you complete your initial petition and any transfer or change requests. Our experts know what to expect and will guide you through the process. We take what is complicated and confusing and simplify it for you.