Alternative Visa Options If You Lose the H-1B Cap Lottery


Due to its growing popularity in the field of business immigration, the H-1B Program has an annual numerical limit, or “cap,” on the number of visas available each year. When the number of H-1B petitions submitted by employers exceeds the annual cap, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) conducts a lottery to randomly select petitions that will be considered for processing.

The H-1B cap lottery is a result of the high demand for H-1B visas and can be a competitive process for employers and potential employees seeking H-1B status in the United States. If you are a foreign worker who was not selected in the H-1B cap lottery, or if you are a human resources professional responsible for helping international employees obtain work visas, it is important to explore other visa options available.

Here is an overview of some alternative nonimmigrant visas that may be available in place of an H-1B:

L-1 Intra-Company Transfer Visa

The L-1 Intracompany Transferee visa is a category of nonimmigrant visa that allows multinational companies to transfer certain employees in management positions to their U.S. offices. If your company has offices or entities overseas and the employee in question has specialized knowledge or leadership/management roles within the company, he or she may be eligible for an L-1 visa. Learn more here.

O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visa

The O-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa available to individuals with extraordinary abilities or achievements in their field, whether science, arts, education, business, or athletics . The application process involves a detailed presentation of the person’s accomplishments and contributions to their field. Learn more about eligibility requirements here.

F-1 OPT Stem Extension

Employees currently working under an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) with F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) status may be eligible for a 24-month extension of their OPT work authorization if their degree is completed and the proposed position are in a STEM field. You can learn more about how to hire an international student on OPT in Boundless’ guide.

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J-1 Intern or Intern Program

THE J-1 Visa Program includes a category for interns and interns, allowing individuals to participate in educational and cultural exchange programs in the United States. There are two distinct categories within the J-1 intern and intern visa:

  • J-1 Trainee Visa: This category is designed for individuals seeking training in a specific field that is not readily available in their home country. The intern must have a professional degree or certificate and at least one year of work experience in their professional field outside of the United States. The maximum duration of a J-1 intern visa is 18 months.
  • J-1 Trainee Visa: This category is for individuals currently enrolled in or recently graduated from a postsecondary institution outside the United States. The internship must be directly related to their academic field of study. The maximum duration of a J-1 trainee visa is 12 months.

B-1/B-2 tourist visa

If an employee’s current H-1B status expires and their extension has not been approved, they may be able to apply for a travel visa to temporarily remain in the country while they explore other options. ‘immigration. The B-1/B-2 tourist visa can be a good method to legally stay in the United States, but it does not come with work authorization.

You can learn more about changing status from an H-1B visa to a B-1/B-2 tourist visa in Boundless’. guide.

E-2 Treaty Investor Visa

The E-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows foreign nationals to work in the United States based on a substantial investment in a U.S. company. It is specifically designed for people from countries with which the United States has a treaty of commerce and navigation.

If an employee’s business is wholly owned by a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States and they are a national of that same country, they may be eligible for an E-2 visa. Learn more here.

E-3 Visa for Australian Citizens

If the employee in question is an Australian citizen and works in a specialized occupation in a professional field, they may be eligible for an E-3 visa.

TN Visa for Canadian and Mexican Citizens

For H-1B holders who are Canadian or Mexican citizens, they are considering applying for the TN work visa. The TN nonimmigrant visa is specifically for Canadian and Mexican workers employed in certain professional occupations, including but not limited to science, engineering, teaching, and various other professions.

Initially, TN visas are granted for a maximum duration of three years, with the possibility of extension in three-year increments. There is no maximum limit on the number of renewals and TN visa holders can continue to work in the United States as long as they maintain eligibility. Learn more in our TN guide.

H-1B1 for Chilean and Singaporean citizens

THE H-1B1 visa is available to citizens of Chile and Singapore who wish to work temporarily in the United States in a specialized occupation that typically requires a graduate degree or its equivalent. The H-1B1 visa is initially granted for a maximum duration of one year, with the possibility of extension in one-year increments.

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