Today, the United States is the world’s largest economy and home to some of its most innovative, fastest-growing companies. Many people move to the U.S. to explore exciting new work opportunities, and will seek an employer to sponsor their visa. If you pursue this process, your future employer will have to file Form I-129, a form for foreign nationals intending to temporarily work in the U.S. In this post, we’ll walk you through the Form I-129 filing process.
What is Form I-129?
Form I-129, also known as a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, is a document that U.S.-based employers may submit to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to sponsor a foreign national for temporary work in the U.S.
Form I-129 may be used to issue a new status for foreign nationals or update the status of an existing visa. This form may also be used to extend your stay as well as issue certain rights to foreign nationals living in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa but seeking work authorization.
The U.S.-based employer must file the petition on behalf of the foreign national, but in some cases an agent may also be permitted to Form I-129 on behalf of the employer.
What is the purpose of Form I-129?
Form I-129 serves several purposes, including:
Extension of the status of a qualified foreign national employee already living within the U.S. on a different nonimmigrant status.
To revise the approved employment of a foreign national when his or her title, job duties, or salary changes.
Providing sponsorship for a foreign national who does not live in the U.S., but who has the ability to apply for a corresponding nonimmigrant work visa at the U.S. consulate of their home country once the I-129 petition has been approved.
To amend the status of a foreign national who is already residing within the U.S. on a different nonimmigrant status.
Which type of employees can be sponsored with a Form I-129?
There are several workers that may be eligible for sponsorship with an I-129 work visa, including:
Temporary workers who qualify for H-1B, H-1C, H-2A, and H-3 status.
Foreign nationals who possess extraordinary abilities that make them eligible for an O-1 visa, as well as their assistants that qualify for O-2 status.
Foreign nationals who qualify for P-1, P-2, and P-3 visas, including athletes, entertainers, performers, and artists, as well as the staff that they rely on to assist them, as long as those staff members qualify for P-1S, P-2S, or P-32 visas.
Religious employees who qualify for R-1 status.
Cultural exchange employees who qualify for the Q-1 status.
Form I-129 may also be used to extend the status of foreign nationals who are currently lawfully residing in the U.S. with E-1, E-2, or TN visa.
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How to complete Form I-129
Ensure that all information you input on the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker form is legible and correct. If the petition is approved but contains incorrect information, the beneficiary may encounter problems down the road.
The entire form consists of 36 pages: eight pages for the main form as well as pages for supplemental information, not all of which are applicable to every case.
While Form I-129 may be lengthy and contains numerous sections, it is the job of the U.S.-based employer to file the petition and not the beneficiary. To further help petitioners and beneficiaries, USCIS provides a separate 29-page instruction guide for filing Form I-129. You can find links to both Form I-129 and “instructions for form” by visiting the USCIS website or by clicking here.
Signing the petition
Once all of the necessary information has been provided, an authorized representative of the employer may sign the document, such as a company-appointed attorney. All signatures should be written in black ink.
In addition to completing the first eight pages of the main form, supplemental forms may need to be submitted containing data that’s applicable to the petition.
Below is a list of the supplements to Form I-129:
E-1/E-2 Classification Supplement
Trade Agreement Supplement
H Classification Supplement
H-1B Data Collection and Filing Fee Exemption Supplement
L Classification Supplement
O and P Classifications Supplement
Q-1 Classification Supplement
R-1 Classification Supplement
Attachment - 1 (to be used when more than one foreign national is included on the form)
Only forms that are relevant and applicable to the visa classification should be completed by the employer. All other supplements may be left blank.
When and where to file Form I-129
Most employers file the position no more than 6 months before the proposed start date of your employment.
Once Form I-129 is completed, it may be filed at one of several locations depending on which nonimmigrant classification and action the petitioner is requesting and the location of the company. For more information on the filing locations for your specific petition, click here.
Is there a filing fee for Form I-129?
Yes—the filing fee is $460 and must be sent with Form I-129.
Application, petition, and biometric services fees are final and non-refundable, regardless of the actions and/or final decision of USCIS, as well as any decision on the part of the petitioner to withdraw their request.
Can the processing for the petition be delayed?
In some cases, yes. This may happen as a result of the petitioner who does not the appropriate information or filing fee, in which case the petition process must usually be re-started.
If USCIS finds that a Request of Evidence is necessary, you may experience processing delays.
For beneficiaries who do not reside in the U.S., it may also take longer to process Form I-129 depending on processing times at your local consulate.
More information about Form I-129
Form I-129 is a visa for nonimmigrant workers and is commonly used for working in the U.S. While the form is relatively straightforward, it is lengthy form. Filing it correctly will help minimize delays.
To help you further, here are some helpful facts about filing a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker that may apply to you.
If a Form I-129 has been filed for an individual already residing in the U.S. and sponsored by another employer through the H-1B visa, the individual may work while the form is processed. In special situations, the beneficiary may be eligible to start working before the petition has been approved. Typically, this is allowed for a 240 day period after the expiration date of the beneficiary’s work permit. For Form I-129 to be applicable to H-1B visa holders, the petition must be submitted and received before the expiration date of the beneficiary’s H-1B visa. Furthermore, the petition form must be completed by an employer who is offering the foreign national an actual job with no risks to the foreign national’s H-1B visa status.
If the beneficiary of the I-129 petition plans to travel abroad, complications with the petition may arise. In this case, the petitioner (the employer) must be alerted of the beneficiary’s travel details before the expiration of his or her H-1B visa status has expired. In most cases, however, the employee cannot travel abroad until the application has been approved.
Form I-129 makes it possible for foreign nationals in search of greener pastures to build the life of their dreams while working in the U.S.
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