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Alternatives to the H-1B Visa for Workers and Companies

At around this time of the year, there is a split among foreign nationals and U.S. companies. Approximately one-third of them are celebrating the fact that their H-1B petitions were selected in the lottery, and the remaining two-thirds are either still anxiously awaiting notice that their petitions have been selected or bemoaning the fact that their petitions were not selected. If your H-1B was not selected in this year’s lottery (or last year or the year before that), do not panic just yet. There may be a multitude of other visa options available to you if you still want to live and work in the United States.stack of paper

Possible H-1B Visa Alternatives:  Other Work Visas

The H-1B visa, while very popular, is by no means the only employment-based visa available to foreign national workers. If the worker has been employed by a foreign company that also has a branch, parent, subsidiary, or affiliate operation in the United States, the worker may qualify for an L-1 visa. There are two types of L-1s:  L-1A visas for executives and managers, and L-1B visas for workers who possess specialized knowledge. The L-1A can also be used by an executive to come to the United States to open a new office for the foreign company.

There are many advantages to the L-1 visa, including the ability for L-2 dependent spouses to obtain work authorization and the fact that there is no annual cap on the number of L-1 visas that may be issued. Therefore, an employer can file an L-1 petition on behalf of a foreign worker at any point in the year. However, there are also a few disadvantages to bear in mind when looking at future immigration plans. The most notable disadvantage is that a worker may only hold L-1A status for seven years or L-1B status for five years – and that both of these time periods also count toward meeting the six-year limitation on H-1B status.

In addition to the L-1 visas, other possible work visa options include E-3 visas (which are very similar to H-1B visas, except reserved just for Australian nationals), H-1B1 visas (again, very similar to the H-1B visa but only reserved for Singaporean and Chilean nationals), and O-1 visas for highly accomplished workers.

Possible H-1B Visa Alternatives:  Green Card Options

It may be advisable for certain workers to bypass the H-1B visa process altogether and jump right into the green card process. The availability of this option will vary greatly depending on the particular worker’s personal circumstances (such as how valuable or needed they are by the sponsoring company, if they are currently in the U.S. working on OPT, etc.). It should also be highlighted that the green card process is not limited to just employer sponsorship but can also extend to sponsorship by a qualifying U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (green card holder) family member. Additionally, the worker may qualify to file an investment-based or asylum-based green card application on their own without the need for a sponsor at all.

The Rant

As H-1B season has come to an end, the Government has cracked down on companies in the IT business in relation to bringing qualified workers to the U.S.

The US government has signaled a major policy shift in the H-1B work visa program, making computer programmers ineligible for the non-immigrant visas by default, firing a shot across the bow of India’s largest outsourcing firms.

A memo issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said previous policies and guidelines framed for the H-1B program in 2000 would no longer be valid.

The USCIS memo is likely to cause short-term disruptions to the operations of Indian IT firms, which typically generate a majority of their revenue from the U.S. and are already fretting over the prospect of having to pay higher minimum salaries for their workers as the administration of President Donald Trump pushes a ‘Hire American” initiative.

Now is the right time to start discussing other non-immigrant visa options.

Additional Blog Posts:

The Government’s War on H-1Bs, ImmigRantings, October 11, 2012

Obama Signs Immigration Policy Memo, ImmigRantings, June 15, 2012

Problems with the H-1B visa: From Work Horse to Show Pony, ImmigRantings, February 13, 2012