One of the most popular visas used for working in the United States is the H-1B, which is a non-immigrant visa that permits foreigners to work in specialty occupations requiring a university degree or equivalent work experience. The H-1B permits eligible workers to stay for up to six years and has proven to be a highly effective means to attract promising professionals to the U.S. workforce. While the H-1B program has been a big hit in many economic sectors, the government limits the number of visas that are available each year in order to protect American workers.
Astoundingly, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) reached its 65,000-visa statutory H-1B cap of for fiscal year 2014 within one week of the beginning of the filing period ending on April 5, 2013. During the filing period, USCIS received a total of approximately 124,000 H-1B petitions, and used a lottery system to select the petitions it approved to meet 65,000 general category cap and the 20,000 advanced degree cap.
Viable H-1B Alternatives
As these statistics indicate, the demand for H-1Bs far outweighs the number of available visas, to the consternation of many U.S. employers and foreign workers. Fortunately, there are a number of viable alternatives for those whose H-1B applications were not selected in the lottery.
- Positions at exempt organizations, such as non-profit organizations and institutions of higher education are exempt from the H-1B cap. A cap-subject employer also qualifies under this exception if the visa holder will also work with cap-exempt organizations.
- O-1 visas for individuals with extraordinary ability provide highly talented individuals with work privileges, with no cap-related issues or quotas
- Country-specific cap-exempt visas, such as the TN Visa for Canadian and Mexican professionals, the H-1B1 for Citizens of Chile and Singapore, and the E-3 Visa for Australians provide a solution for workers from certain nations
- E-1/E-2 visas for employees of foreign companies that invest in the U.S. or have special status due to a financial treaty
- L-1 visas for short term work visas, with duration terms varying by native country
The immigration reform bill that recently passed in the Senate proposes an increase in the H-1B cap to a range that will fluctuate between 115,000 and 180,000 visas per year, depending on the labor demands and the unemployment rate, among other factors. Whether or not this increase takes effect depends on the bill’s fate in the House of Representatives.
If you feel you have been hindered by the H-1B cap, contact the Law Office of Maud Poudat, P.A. to explore the myriad of alternatives that may be available to you.