Trying to secure an H-1B visa to work in the United States can be a nail-biting experience. It’s like you’re a contestant on a game show, and the odds of winning are stacked strongly against you. Every year, thousands of applications are submitted to the USCIS in hopes of being selected for one of the coveted visas, but only a small fraction will be chosen. It’s like trying to win the lottery, but instead of cash, you’re hoping for a chance to live the American dream.
Now, we have some good news – just because your petition was not selected in the H-1B lottery, doesn’t mean that you’re completely out of luck. It may be a setback, but it’s not the end of the road. You have other options. The truth is, you didn’t come this far to give up now, did you?
The United States offers other visas that might actually be a better fit for your situation. Whether you’re an investor, entrepreneur, or student, there’s a visa that could work for you. With the right strategy and guidance, you can still achieve your dreams of working in the land of the free.
What Is The Best Alternative to the H-1B Visa?
For those who were not selected in the highly competitive lottery, let’s take a look at the best alternative options.
O-1A Visa For People With Extraordinary Abilities
Although the term “extraordinary” makes most of us feel extremely underqualified for this visa, the O-1A is actually one of the best options for those who were not selected in the H-1B visa lottery. Why?
If you applied for the H-1B visa, it means that:
- you have an employer in the US who is willing to sponsor your visa;
- you are an expert in your field, so could likely qualify for the essential capacity factor;
- your employer was willing to pay you a salary certified by the DOL, so we can play with the name of your position/title and check if this could qualify for the high salary (proposed high salary);
If the above is true, then you already meet some of the requirements for the O-1A visa. We can help to guide you in the development of other areas like judging, awards, membership and press articles. It may be possible for you to be fully qualified for the O-1A visa in just 2-3 months. In general, 3 requirements are needed to qualify. However, we recommend presenting at least 4 strong requirements when applying for the O-1A visa. For more information on the requirements, as well as details about the application process, take a look at our blog post on the O-1A visa! You can also evaluate your eligibility here.
H-1B for non-profit organizations
If your regular H-1B application was not selected in the lottery, it might be worth applying for an H1B for non-profit organizations. These types of petitions can be submitted at any time of the year, and the lottery requirement is waived. Organizations that can sponsor this type of H-1B petition are non-profit organizations associated with higher education, as well as non-profit or government research organizations. Of course, salaries in these organizations are usually much lower than for-profit organizations, which is why the majority of applicants prefer the standard H-1B path. However, if you were not selected and the O-1 visa is not an option, this may be worth considering.
If you were not selected in the H-1B lottery, but you are from a treaty country, the E-2 visa might be an option to consider. If you are interested in starting a business in the US, and making financial contributions towards it, then this might be your pathway forward. Let’s look at the details.
The actual amount of investment required varies depending on the type of business, but it must be substantial. In other words, the immigration adjudicator must be convinced that your investment is sufficient to operate the proposed venture, and that you intend to create job opportunities for US citizens and Green card holders. Although this may sound daunting, it’s important to prove that you have what it takes to make your business successful. A key element to a successful E-2 application is providing evidence that you, as the investor, will be the one to develop and direct your business in the United States, as well as that the funds that you are investing come from a legal source.
If you do not have sufficient funds to invest but you can find an employer from your home country who lives and works in the US under an E-2 investor visa, it is possible for this employer to sponsor you as an E-2 essential employee. In this type of petition, we focus on your achievements in the field of expertise.
Learn more about the general requirements for the E-2 visa in our blog post.
If you are from Canada or Mexico, you could consider applying for a TN visa – a nonimmigrant employment visa that allows you to work in the US within specific professional occupations.
The TN visa is part of the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) agreement, which replaced the former North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and created special economic and trade relationships between these three countries. This means that qualified citizens from Canada and Mexico can enter the US on a TN status and work for up to three years, with the possibility to renew indefinitely.
To be eligible for a TN status, proof of Canadian or Mexican citizenship, such as a passport, is required. Employment with a US employer, or a foreign employer with a US entity, is also required and can be full-time or part-time. In addition, you must have qualifications within your field, such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and your job must be included in the list of 60 NAFTA professions.
F-1 Student Visa
If none of the previous options work for you, you may consider applying for an F-1 student visa.
The F-1 visa allows you to temporarily live in the United States while studying. To be eligible for an F-1 visa, you must apply and be accepted into a course of study at a SEVP-approved institution in the United States. This can include universities, high schools, seminaries, private elementary schools, conservatories, and language programs.
You must have proof of sufficient financial funds to support your studies. In addition, you must also have significant ties to your home country that clearly demonstrate your intent to return home after completing your studies in the US. While your spouse and/or children may accompany you while on your F-1 visa, they will be on F-2 visas and will not be permitted to work. However, your children can be enrolled in school. Although you will be able to work in the US with an F-1 visa (OPT/CPT), there are certain restrictions on the type of work you can do and the locations where you can work.
Just because your H-1B visa application did not get selected in the lottery does not mean you should give up on your dreams of working in the United States. There are alternative visa options for you to consider, and with the right strategy and guidance, you can still achieve your goals. The immigration specialists at PassRight can help you choose the best visa option based on your personal circumstances. So, take a deep breath and reach out to our team. You are one step closer to living the American dream!
Need a winning immigration strategy? Schedule a free consultation today!
* This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide direct legal advice.
Frequently Asked Questions About H-1B Visa Alternatives
My H-1B visa was not selected in the lottery – what are my options?You can either wait until next year’s lottery, or apply for an alternative visa that best suits your situation. There is the O-1A visa, and the H-1B for non-profit organizations. Other options to consider are the E-2 visa for treaty investors, the TN visa for Canadians and Mexicans, the E-3 visa for Australians and the F-1 visa for people that would like to consider studies. Consulting an immigration specialist can help you to make a more informed decision.
What is the probability of getting an O-1 visa as an OPT- STEM student?The probability is actually quite high, and we have previously created plenty of successful O-1 visa applications for OPT- STEM students. However, we need to evaluate your personal credentials to better understand your current situation and what development your profile requires, if any. Evaluate your eligibility here.
Is it possible to argue a high salary factor, based on the offer letter from my future employer?
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