Can a foreign worker begin employment in the United States without an H-1B visa?

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Yes. If the foreign worker entered the United States in a different non-immigrant visa category (i.e. visitor); was present in the United States in valid non-immigrant status when the H-1B petition was approved; and a request for a change of status from the non-immigrant status to H-1B status was requested, then the foreign worker could begin employment on the first date of validity of the H-1B status.

If the foreign worker is present in the United States in valid H-1B status then the foreign worker can begin employment as soon as the H-1B petition is filed with the USCIS (this assumes that the foreign worker is in the U.S. in valid H-1B status and his or her new employment is in the same or a similar occupation).