Other Alternatives to H-1B Visa


The initial H-1B random selection process was completed in late March.  USCIS has not officially released the number of H-1B registrations and selection total.  However, based on unofficial estimates, the number of H-1B applicants continue to be sky-high.  This year, USCIS implemented a new policy which prohibits the entering of multiple registrations for the same employee, which should have improved the chances for selection.  Still, based on statistics gathered so far, the overall selection rate is still undesirable.

For the unselected foreign students and workers, they must now face the harsh reality of their future. This article presents some alternatives that they may consider based on their background and qualifications:

Practical Training Employment

For some foreign students with a STEM degree, continue working with their STEM OPT employment authorization may be the best option. While waiting for the next year's H-1B lottery, they may continue working for their employers.  They must work for an employer who is e-Verified.  Some universities offer internship an co-op employment opportunities.  Enrolled F-1 students may participate in these programs through Curriculum Practical Training (CPT) authorization.

Extraordinary Ability O-1 Work Visa

For individuals with outstanding qualifications or a strong STEM background, the O-1 extraordinary ability visa may be an option. The O-1 visa requires substantial proof of one's qualifications and achievements. O-1 is a temporary work visa approved for up to 3 years each time, and can be extended indefinitely.  Please see our previous article for details of the O-1 visa.

Employer-sponsored Green Card

Rather than relying only on H-1B, one may also consider applying for their green card directly, if their employer is ready to start the application process. There is no requirement that one must be in H-1B status first before applying for their permanent resident status.  For applicants born in countries with available visa numbers, their green cards could be approved relatively quickly.  However, they must maintain their lawful status until they are able to submit their final green card application.

Self-Petitioned Green Card

Without sponsorship by a U.S. employer, a foreign worker may also file a self-petition for their green card if qualified.  For example, they may apply for a green card under the EB-2 visa category with a National Interest Waiver (NIW).  The applicant must prove that their immigration will serve an important interest of the United States.  USCIS has encouraged qualified individuals with a strong STEM background to apply.  Please see our previous article for details of an NIW application. 

EB-1A Extraordinary Ability petition can also be filed by a foreign applicant without employer sponsorship.  It is similar to the O-1 work visa with even more stringent requirements.  One must submit evidence to demonstrate that they have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor. Proof of sustainted national or international acclaim is also required.  Not only scientists or researchers can submit EB-1A petitions, professionals in other fields such as art and design, business, education, health care, engineering, etc., may also qualify.  When in doubt, one should obtain a professional evaluation of their qualifications. 

E-2 Visa

For entrepreneurs who are interested in starting up a small business in the U.S., the E-2 Treaty Investor visa may be the answer.  Their spouses and children may also live, work and study in the U.S. To apply for an E-2 visa, one's country of citizenship (not birth) must have a commerce treaty with the U.S.  Most European and Asian countries are eligible.  Please see our previous article for details

(Immigration laws and policies change regularly.  If you have any questions regarding this article, please visit www.1visa1.com to schedule a legal consultation.)  


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