The 2015 H-1B cap season is almost over. Today practitioners nationwide will rush to the FedEx drop off locations to file tens of thousands of H-1B cases. In a few short weeks, you will know whether you are among the lucky 65,000 that got picked in the lottery. If you happen to be among the H-1Bs chosen for processing this season, congratulations! We may even recommend you go to Las Vegas and try your hand at blackjack or the roulette, because lady luck certainly favors you. However, if you are like the rest of us and you feel like the odds are against you, and the “house” always wins, please continue reading, as you may have some options if your H-1B petition was not selected in the lottery.
If you are a STEM student, you may qualify for an additional 17 months OPT Employment Authorization Document extension. STEM refers to certain science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. A list of STEM majors is available via the U.S. Customs and Immigration website (.pdf). The extension will give you an opportunity to continue working and apply for an H-1B again the following year.
Citizens of Canada or Mexico
If you a citizen of Canada or Mexico, you may be eligible for a TN visa. The TN classification is for Canadian and Mexican citizens who will perform professional assignments in the United States. You must be performing a professional assignment (with a few exceptions) as specified on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) occupations list and meet the corresponding educational and/or licensure requirements.
Citizens of Singapore or Chile
If you are a citizen of Singapore or Chile, you may be eligible for an H-1B1. The requirements for an H-1B1 are very similar to that of an H-1B. The employer does not need to file a petition with USCIS, instead, the employee may present the evidence directly to an officer at a U.S. consulate in Singapore or Chile.
Citizens of Australia
If you are a citizen of Australia, you may qualify for an E-3 visa. The E-3 classification is for Australian citizens who will perform a professional specialty occupation in the United States. You must be performing a professional assignment in the United States and have a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. The E-3 visa requirements are very similar to H-1B visa requirements. If you are a citizen or national of Australia who is coming to the United States to perform a professional “specialty occupation” assignment, you may be eligible for an E-3 visa. In order to qualify for an E-3 visa, you will need to provide proof of your Australian citizenship, Bachelor’s degree, professional license (if required for the assignment by law), and information about the U.S. company and job. You may apply for an E-3 visa at a U.S. consulate abroad or request a change of status from USCIS. E-3 status may be valid for up to two years and may be renewed indefinitely.
Spouses of L or E Visa Holders
If you are a spouse of an L-1A or L-1B holder, you are eligible for work authorization. An L-2 beneficiary is eligible to work in the United States.
If you are a spouse of an E-3 holder, you are eligible for work authorization. Spouses of E-3 professionals hold E-3D status. An E-3D beneficiary is eligible to work in the United States. He/she is eligible to apply for an Employment Authorization Document. Once the spouse receives an EAD, he/she may be employed by any employer.
Employees of Institutions of Higher Education or Related Nonprofits
If you are employed by an institution of higher education or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity, a nonprofit research organization or a government research organization, you are not subject to the cap. The employer can file the H-1B petition on your behalf at any time during the fiscal year and is not subject to the April 1st deadline. If you change employers and your new employer is not an institution of higher education or a nonprofit entity related or affiliated with an institution of higher education or a government research organization, you will be subject to the cap.
International Managers or Professionals Holding Specialized Knowledge
If you have been 1) employed for at least one year with the foreign company in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity, and 2) you will be performing a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge assignment in the United States and 3) there is qualifying corporate relationship between the foreign company and the U.S. company, you may be eligible for an L-1A or L-1B visa.
There are a couple of additional alternatives to an H-1B visa not mentioned above. Contact us and let us help you determine whether you qualify for anything other than an H-1B.