To ease the burden at the time, the USCIS instilled a policy of accepting a certain type of virtual signature. They recently announced the change is permanent. What does that mean for H-1B applicants?
This article will provide an overview of USCIS's policies on virtual signatures and explain how they can be used to obtain a visa or other petitions.
H1-B Visa Overview - What is it?
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows individuals from outside the United States to come to the United States for employment for an initial period of up to three years. Suppose the individual's employer intends to keep the employee beyond the initial three-year period. In that case, they must apply for and receive an extension before the initial term of the visa has expired.
The Immigration Act of 1990 created the H-1B cap, which limits how many visas are granted each fiscal year. The number of visas that the USCIS distributes each year is subject to change, but it has been steady at 65,000 since 2004.
The cap is broken into two segments: the Master’s cap and the regular cap. Those with Master’s degrees or higher are eligible for the Master’s cap; a Bachelor’s degree or the equivalent is necessary for the regular cap.
Foreign workers seeking an H-1B visa are placed into a lottery system based on their cap entrance. The Master’s cap has an additional 20,000 visas granted annually. And Master’s cap applicants not chosen in the lottery get a second chance in the regular cap lottery.
Registering and Applying for an H-1B Visa
One of the first steps an individual will take toward filing an H-1B visa is to register with the government. The initial registration process can be done virtually through an online portal. However, the employer completes the registration, not the individual seeking the H-1B visa.
The registration period is a short window in March before the lottery begins in April. Individuals must complete a more detailed application if chosen in the lottery.
Applicants can track the progress of their petition and check their status in the online portal. The portal is a useful tool, but does it allow virtual signatures?
What is a Virtual Signature?
A virtual signature is an electronic signature that is legally recognized as a signature. It allows people to sign paperwork electronically rather than physically signing it on paper, known as a “wet” signature.
Virtual signatures are convenient, can help save time, and can be especially beneficial for those who live in remote areas or have limited access to postal services.
They can be especially helpful for those who have difficulty physically signing documents.
However, virtual signatures aren’t accepted everywhere. Why not?
Virtual signatures can become unreliable if the internet connection the applicant is using is unstable or if the document is large enough that it stretches beyond the capacity of the applicant’s internet connection.
How Can Virtual Signatures Be Used in the H-1B Visa Process?
The ever-changing policies of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can be a challenge to navigate. For those seeking an H-1B visa or other petitions, understanding the agency's policies on virtual signatures can be especially confusing.
USCIS has recently moved to a more digital-friendly approach that allows petitioners to submit documents without needing “wet” signatures. This new policy allows petitioners to submit their applications more quickly and securely, saving time and money.
Fortunately, USCIS has made the process easier for many applicants by allowing virtual signatures for certain documents, but there are restrictions. The type of petition, the type of document being signed, and the agency or office overseeing the petition will determine the level of acceptance for virtual signatures.
Virtual signatures such as DocuSign are not permissible on any H-1B visa paperwork type. The only virtual signatures allowed are ones electronically reproduced, such as scanned, faxed, or photocopied.
Additionally, the virtual signature must be a copy of the original “wet” signature on the original document.
Furthermore, the H-1B applicant must keep a copy of the original in their possession.
The H-1B visa application process is complex, but it can be incredibly rewarding for those who successfully complete it. However, small mistakes in your application can delay your H-1B visa approval or get denied outright.
USCIS's policies on virtual signatures are just one area where there’s a chance for a misstep. In order to get a successful outcome, it is important to know the right filing procedures and the associated policies.
Our experts at Visa2US can assist you in every step of the H-1B visa process, including how to prepare the documents and what to do if a petition is denied. Furthermore, we can help determine if your electronically reproduced signature meets the USCIS’s updated policy on virtual signatures.
So if you think an H-1B visa could be the right opportunity for you, don't hesitate to contact us at Visa2US for assistance. The visa could be the start of an exciting new chapter of your life and career!