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H1B Visa Processing Time 2024

By Nita Nicole Upadhye

Table of Contents

When applying for an H1B visa, it will be important to understand the H1B visa processing time and the key dates for your application.

The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. For the 65,000 cap-subject H1B visas made available each year, USCIS operates an annual application cycle, with strict timeframes and deadlines. Missing any of these deadlines would most likely mean having to start your application again during the next year’s cycle. This makes it critical to ensure you work to the correct timings and are providing the required information when requested, to avoid issues, delays or refusal of your application.

In this guide, we explain the key stages of the H1B visa application process and what you can expect in terms of the H1B visa processing time.


H1B Visa Processing Time


If you are successful in the H1B lottery and proceed to file a full H1B petition, you can expect H1B visa processing to take around 3 to 5 months under the standard processing service, depending on the individual circumstances of each petition and whether additional evidence is requested. Where the premium processing option is taken, the process takes 15 calendar days.

However, the petition stage is just one of a number of parts of the H1B application process, starting from the initial registration to the final approval and issuance of the visa. Understanding each phase of the application process can help with your visa planning and increase the likelihood of approval.


H1B Visa Process: Key Dates


There are several stages to the cap-subject H1B application process, each with its own strict time frame, which must be taken into consideration when planning to apply for H1B status.

The USCIS fiscal year starts on October 1 each year, which is when employment in cap-subject H1B visa roles can begin. The application cycle for each fiscal year starts in March with the initial registration phase.

As the H1B visa cap window opens in April, the corresponding employment should begin from the beginning of October that same year. If the employment is due to start more than 6 months later, the petition should be filed the following year. Filing a petition for employment to start more than 6 months later will result in the petition being denied.


Stage 1. Initial Registration Phase


The initial registration phase is the first step in the H1B visa application process. This phase typically occurs in March each year.

The sponsor must register online with USCIS for each H1B visa applicant it is proposing to employ under the H1B route, and submit basic information about the prospective H1B worker and the job offer, and pay the registration fee. The information provided must be accurate and complete to avoid disqualification.

The registration window is usually open for 14 days, but it may be extended, as was the case in March 2024 for the FY 2025, due to technical issues. During this period, employers or their representatives must create an online account with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

If the route us oversubscribed by the close of the H1B registration window, a random lottery selection process will be used to select registrants up to the cap limit to be invited to file a full H1B petition.


Stage 2. H1B Lottery Selection Phase


The lottery selection phase takes place after the initial registration period closes.

Due to the high demand for H1B visas, USCIS uses a random lottery system to select applicants if the number of registrations exceeds the annual cap of 65,000 visas for the regular category and an additional 20,000 visas for applicants with advanced degrees from US institutions. The lottery typically takes place in late March.

Registrations selected in the lottery will be notified through their USCIS online account, allowing them to proceed to the next step. Unselected registrations remain in the system and may be considered if additional selections are made later in the year.


Stage 3. Full H1B Petition Submission


For those selected in the lottery, the next step is the full petition submission.

The filing window for the full H1B petition usually opens from April 1 to those applicants who have made it through the registration selection process and been invited to file. Applicants have 90 days from the date they are notified of their selection to make their full submission.

Employers must file a complete H1B visa petition (Form I-129) with USCIS, including all supporting documentation and required fees. This must be done within the specified timeframe, usually within 90 days of selection notification. The petition should include evidence such as the job offer, the beneficiary’s qualifications, and a certified Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor.


a. Labor Condition Application LCA


A key part of the full petition stage is the Labor Condition Application (LCA). The LCA is a statement filed by the employer with the Department of Labor which assures working conditions for the H1B applicant and confirms that the salary for the H1B role is equivalent to that of similarly employed workers or where more, that it is the prevailing wage in the local area.

If this is the first time that the employer has filed an LCA, the processing time could be up to two weeks. If the employer has previously filed an LCA, the processing time is likely to be around a week.

It is therefore recommended that the employer files their LCA no later than early March, although your employer may wish to file the LCA earlier than this to ensure that everything is in place when the H1B visa window opens at the beginning of April.

Once the LCA has been certified, the employer may file the Petition for a Non-immigrant Worker form I-129 with the correct USCIS Service Centre.


b. Employee visa petition


Should the H1B petition be granted, the applicant may make their Online Non-immigrant Visa Application and attend an interview at their local US embassy or consulate.

This initial online process, including making an appointment through the US visa service can be completed over the course of a day, or saved and revisited at a later date.

Once the interview has taken place, successful applications are usually processed within 3 to 5 working days, after which time the applicant’s visa will be returned to them.

Processing times and availability of interviews are dependent on the relevant embassy or consulate that is adjudicating the petition, so it is important to check the specific timeframes of the branch that is processing your application.


Stage 4. Petition Processing


Once the full petition is submitted, USCIS will review the application. This review process can take several months under regular processing, or it can be expedited to 15 calendar days with premium processing for an additional fee.

The completeness and accuracy of the petition are crucial to avoid delays or denials. If insufficient supporting evidence has been provided within the petition, the application may be rejected at this stage. Alternatively, the employer may be issued a Request for Evidence (RFE). This will in all likelihood lengthen the H1B visa processing time.


Stage 5. Approval and Issuance of the Visa


f the petition is approved, USCIS will notify the employer and the beneficiary. The approved petition allows the beneficiary to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy if they are outside the United States. Upon visa issuance, the beneficiary can begin working in the U.S. under H1B status starting from October 1st, which marks the beginning of the fiscal year.

With a valid and approved H1B visa, you can enter the US up to 10 days before your employment is due to start. Your visa, including the initial 3 years period and the total six-year period, begins on the first day that you use it to gain entry to the US.


Standard Processing Times for H1B Visa


The regular processing time for an H1B visa can vary significantly depending on several factors, although regular processing for an H1B visa generally takes several months from start to finish. Each phase of the process has its own timeline, and various factors can influence the overall duration. Average duration for each phase typically involves:


1. Initial Registration Phase


The initial registration phase usually takes place in March. During this period, employers submit basic information about the prospective H1B worker through the USCIS online portal. This phase typically takes three weeks.


2. Lottery Selection Phase


The lottery selection phase follows the registration period. USCIS conducts the lottery, usually within a week or two after the registration period ends, often by late March or early April. Notifications are sent to selected applicants shortly thereafter.


3. Full Petition Submission


Once selected in the lottery, employers have a 90-day window to submit the full H1B visa petition, including all necessary documentation and fees. This submission period typically spans from early April to late June. The time taken to prepare and submit the petition can vary, but it usually takes several weeks to ensure completeness and accuracy.


4. USCIS Processing


After the full petition is submitted, USCIS begins its review process. For regular processing, this phase can take 3 to 6 months, depending on the service center’s workload and the complexity of the case. It involves a thorough review of all submitted documents and may include a Request for Evidence (RFE) if additional information is needed.


H1B Visa Premium Processing Time


Premium processing is an expedited service offered by USCIS that allows petitioners to receive a faster response for their H1B visa petitions. This service is particularly beneficial for employers and applicants who need a quicker decision to plan their employment start dates and other logistical considerations.

The timeline for premium processing is straightforward. Upon receipt of the premium processing request and payment, USCIS guarantees a response within 15 calendar days. This 15-day period includes weekends and holidays. If USCIS issues an RFE, the 15-day clock resets upon receipt of the requested additional information.

The cost of premium processing is an additional fee on top of the standard filing fees for the H1B visa. As of 2024, the premium processing fee is $2,805. This fee is subject to change, so it is important to check the current USCIS fee schedule before applying.

However, premium processing also does not offer any enhanced chance of success in the H1B visa lottery.

The primary benefits of premium processing include:

a. Speed: Significantly faster processing time, allowing applicants to receive a decision or RFE within 15 calendar days.
b. Certainty: Provides a defined timeline, which helps in planning and making informed decisions regarding employment start dates.
c. Priority Handling: Premium processing petitions are handled with priority by USCIS, reducing the uncertainty and waiting time associated with regular processing.


Premium processing for the H1B visa is a valuable option for employers and applicants who require a faster decision on their petitions. While it involves an additional cost, the benefits of expedited processing, certainty, and priority handling often outweigh the expense, particularly for those with time-sensitive employment needs. Understanding the differences between premium and regular processing helps in making an informed decision that best suits the needs of both employers and applicants.


Key Factors Affecting H1B Visa Processing Time


The processing time for an H1B visa can be influenced by several factors, which can either expedite or delay the overall process. Understanding these factors is crucial for applicants and employers to navigate the application process more effectively. Below are the key factors that affect H1B visa processing time:


1. Type of Processing (Regular vs. Premium)


The type of processing chosen significantly impacts the time it takes to receive a decision on an H1B visa petition. Regular processing typically takes between 3 to 6 months, but it can be longer depending on the volume of applications and other factors. In contrast, premium processing offers a much faster timeline. For an additional fee, premium processing guarantees a response from USCIS within 15 calendar days, which can be an approval, denial, or a Request for Evidence (RFE). This expedited service is beneficial for those needing a quicker decision but does not affect the initial lottery phase.


2. USCIS Service Center Handling the Petition


The specific USCIS service center that handles the H1B petition also affects processing times. Different service centers have varying workloads and processing efficiencies, leading to differences in how quickly applications are processed. For example, some centers may handle more petitions or have fewer resources, causing longer processing times. Applicants and employers should monitor processing times at the relevant service center, which USCIS regularly updates on their website.


3. Completeness and Accuracy of the Application


Submitting a complete and accurate H1B visa application is crucial for timely processing. Incomplete applications or those with errors can lead to delays as USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) or outright deny the application. Ensuring that all required forms, supporting documents, and fees are correctly submitted can prevent unnecessary delays. Consulting with an immigration attorney can help ensure that the application is thorough and meets all USCIS requirements.


4. Requests for Evidence (RFEs)


Requests for Evidence (RFEs) are a common factor that can significantly delay H1B visa processing times. When USCIS needs additional information or documentation to make a decision on a petition, they issue an RFE to the applicant or their employer. Responding to an RFE takes time, as it requires gathering the requested information and submitting it back to USCIS. The processing clock stops while the RFE is pending and resumes once the additional evidence is received. RFEs can add several weeks or even months to the overall processing time, depending on the complexity of the requested information and the response time.

RFEs are issued by USCIS when the initial evidence provided in the H1B petition is insufficient to make a decision. They are a standard part of the immigration process and can be triggered by various issues, such as insufficient proof of the beneficiary’s qualifications, discrepancies in the job description, or missing documents. Receiving an RFE does not mean the petition will be denied, but it does indicate that USCIS requires further information to proceed. Prompt and thorough responses to RFEs are critical to minimize delays and improve the chances of approval.


Need assistance?


Due to the competitiveness and uncertainty of the H1B visa route, processing times have to be taken into account when planning for an application and as you progress through the stages of the visa application.

For specialist immigration legal advice to ensure that the H1B process is managed effectively, contact us.


H1B visa processing time FAQs


How long does it take to get H-1B visa?

The time to obtain an H-1B visa varies but generally spans several months. From the initial registration in March to the lottery results in late March or early April, selected applicants can then file a full petition, which can take 3 to 6 months under regular processing. Premium processing, available for an extra fee, guarantees a response within 15 calendar days. Delays can occur if USCIS issues a Request for Evidence (RFE). Overall, the process typically ranges from 6 to 9 months, with approved visas allowing work to start on October 1st.


How long do I have to wait for H-1B?

Processing times can vary between Embassies and Consulates, so it is worth checking leadtimes with the centre that will be processing your application. Generally, you can expect H1B standard processing to take 3 to 5 months.


How long is H-1B approved for?

H1B visas are typically issued for a period of 3 years. H1B workers can then apply to renew their visa for a further 3 years, up to a maximum of 6 years in total for an H1B period of leave. The H1B worker may then be eligible to apply for a Green Card.

How long does H1B visa processing take under regular processing?

Under regular processing, the H1B visa application can take between 3 to 6 months from the submission of the full petition to receiving a decision, though times can vary based on factors like the service center’s workload and case complexity.


What is the duration for H1B visa processing with premium processing?

Premium processing guarantees a 15-calendar-day response from USCIS, which can be an approval, denial, or Request for Evidence (RFE), significantly expediting the decision phase.


How do Requests for Evidence (RFEs) affect H1B processing time?

RFEs can delay processing by several weeks or months as the application is paused until the additional information is provided and reviewed by USCIS.


When does the H1B visa lottery take place?

The H1B visa lottery typically occurs in late March or early April, shortly after the initial registration period closes on March 20th.


How can I check the status of my H1B visa application?

You can check your H1B visa application status online using the USCIS Case Status Online tool with your receipt number.


What factors contribute to delays in H1B visa processing?

A: Delays can be caused by incomplete applications, high application volume, RFEs, and changes in immigration policy or procedures.


Can an employer submit multiple registrations for the same beneficiary?

USCIS prohibits duplicate registrations for the same beneficiary by the same employer, and doing so can result in rejection of all registrations.


What is the earliest I can start working if my H1B petition is approved?

If your H1B petition is approved, you can begin working on October 1st, which is the start of the fiscal year.


Are there any exemptions from the H1B visa cap?

Yes, certain petitions from higher education institutions, non-profit organizations, and governmental research organizations are exempt from the H1B cap.


What should I do if my H1B application is denied?

If your H1B application is denied, you should review the denial reasons, consult with an immigration attorney, and consider options like reapplying next year or exploring other visa categories.


This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.



Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law, (The Legal 500, Who's Who Legal and AILA) and an experienced and trusted advisor to large multinational corporates through to SMEs. She provides strategic immigration advice and specialist application support to corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, investors, artists, actors and athletes from across the globe to meet their US-bound talent mobility needs.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals.

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.​

Need legal advice?

For specialist advice on your query, get in touch with our team of US immigration attorneys.

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For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.

For specialist advice on a US immigration or nationality matter for your business, contact our US immigration attorneys.