H-1B visas are popular for companies looking to fill positions for which they do not have enough qualified U.S. applicants. An H-1B visa allows a qualified foreign worker to live and work in the U.S. for three years while working for their employer and can be renewed for an additional three years. While the H-1B visa is an attractive option for employers and foreign workers, it can be difficult to obtain one. Fortunately, there are some alternatives employers and workers might consider if they can’t get an H-1B visa.
What is an H-1B visa?
An H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows a skilled foreign worker to live and work in the U.S. for a sponsoring employer. It can be renewed for three years after an initial three-year period, but it is not an immigrant visa and does not provide a direct path to citizenship. Because of its popularity, the U.S. government has established an H-1B visa lottery with an annual cap on the total number of H-1B visas issued per year. In most years, the available visas run out quickly, leaving employers without workers to fill their open positions and foreign workers without visas to work in the U.S.
Alternatives to H-1B visas
U.S. companies and foreign nationals who are not selected in the H-1B visa lottery might explore some alternative general employment visas that could allow companies to fill positions and workers to work for them, including:
- L-1 visa – Allows intracompany transfers of those in executive or managerial roles
- O-1 visa – Limited to foreign nationals with extraordinary abilities in their fields
- F-1 STEM OPT extension – Allows individuals in STEM fields working under the optional training program to extend their visa for up to 24 months
- J-1 trainee visa – For degreed individuals to obtain training in a specific field for up to 18 months
- E-2 treaty investor visa – Allows individuals to live and work in the U.S. upon making a substantial investment
- TN visa – For Canadian or Mexican citizens in STEM, teaching, and other fields
Some other types of visas might also be available.
Not being selected in the H-1B visa lottery can be frustrating. However, some alternative visas might allow companies to fill positions and foreign nationals to work in the U.S.