The H-1B is a temporary nonimmigrant visa that allows US employers to petition for highly skilled foreign national employees. The foreign national employee typically fills a critical need in the US labor market and provides employers, particularly employers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields, with a pool of professionals that can perform “specialty occupations”.

Every year, the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) begins accepting new H-1B visa petitions through an electronic lottery system that shifts through hundreds of thousands of applicants to select a capped amount. Typically, less than 30% of applicants will get selected during this lottery. Applicants that are not selected, can either wait for the following lottery or explore alternative options to secure work authorization and employment in the United States.

Below is a non-exhaustive list of the most used options after non-selection during the H-1B process. Keeping that in mind, below is a non-exhaustive list of H-1B alternatives that applicants can explore.

O-1 or P-1 Extraordinary Ability Visas

These visas are generally reserved for professionals who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts (including the television and motion picture industry), education, business, or athletics. The P-1 visa is typically for internationally recognized individuals whereas the O-1 visa is for those who are nationally or internationally acclaimed.

TN Visa for Canadian and Mexican Professionals

This visa category was created under the NAFTA agreement specifically for Canadian and Mexican professionals to strengthen business and trade relations in the three countries. This temporary visa allows professionals from Canada or Mexico to secure occupations with US-based employers that are seeking employees in specific professions. Unlike the H-1B visa which has a six-year limit, a TN visa allows applicants to renew their visas with an indefinite number of three-year extensions while working in the US.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) & Optional Practical Training (OPT Extension)

For H-1B applicants who are currently F-1 Students in the United States, there are a couple of options that may allow you to continue to stay in the US and get work authorization. The CPT allows F-1 students to be employed in their field of study. Availability of this option varies by school and program but when available it does provide an F-1 student with work authorization.

Under the OPT, however, graduates from US universities or colleges are allowed one year of practical training (employment) in the field of study. For OPT holders who are also “STEM” majors (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), there is an option to request an OPT extension which can provide you with an additional 24 months if the position you are working in is also STEM-related.

L-1 Intracompany Transferee

This visa type allows foreign national employees who work for multinational companies that have a US office to transfer to the US as an executive, manager, or specialized employee. You would need to have worked for the company for at least one year out of the three years prior to entering the US. This option does allow you to bring your family members and it does provide work authorization for them as well.

J-1 Visitor Exchange Visa

This visa option is generally for business trainees, teachers, college professors, research scholars, medical residents, or interns receiving medical training within the U.S. and other specialists. Because this is an exchange visitor program, you are required to return home after a couple of years.

Although, a “second round” lottery selection is expected it is not always guaranteed and frankly the chances of election get fairly slim after the first round. There are plenty of other options that are not on the list above so keep your individual situation in mind as you gather information about H-1B alternatives.

For more information about H-1B alternatives, be sure to join our mailing list and check out more of our blogs! To schedule an initial consultation with us today, don’t hesitate to contact us at (469) 454-2596.

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