The popularity of the H1B visa program for non-immigrant visas has led to fierce competition among applicants, since there are many more petitions received than can be awarded with the 65,000 annual cap (plus 20,000 for master’s degree holders). Only one in three applicants will receive an H1B visa each year, which brings up the question of what alternatives might be available for those that miss the cap in the annual lottery.
In other articles we have discussed the ‘cap-exempt’ pathways to obtaining an H1B visa, but assuming none of those apply, how else might a foreign national work in the US (legally). There are several other non-immigrant visa types that could present a pathway to work in the US and even eventually obtain residency if desired.
One way to work in the US is with an H2B visa, which is primarily used for ‘unskilled’ seasonal or temporary jobs. This can include tourism, hospitality, cruise ships, resorts, construction work, janitors, retail sales and restaurants. The work must be ‘non-agricultural’ in nature to meet the H2B visa criteria.
The visa does require a confirmed job offer and there must be a finite period of employment after which the worker will return to their home country. The maximum time period is one year, but in some cases can be extended by the employer up to 3 years.
Landing a job with an H2B visa could be used as a ‘stepping stone’ toward a white collar job, and can give a foreign worker the chance to legally enter the US, work temporarily and make contacts for H1B visa positions while in the country. Spouses of H2B visa holders can also enter the US on an H-4 visa, so family members do not have to be left behind.
Obviously, the pay levels will not usually be equal to those of the H1B visa ‘specialty occupations’, buy many of these types of positions offer housing and other benefits to ease the cost of living in the US. It also offers the advantage of looking for better positions while in the US, rather from abroad. Don’t dismiss the H2B as a ‘lesser’ option since it could be one way to open the door to a skilled position.
Similar to the H1B visa, but only available to Australian citizens, and is not subject to an annual cap.
Also similar to the H1B visa, but only available to citizens of Mexico and Canada.
If a foreign worker holds a senior position in their own country, they can transfer to any US branch offices using an L1 visa. There is no annual cap on this type of visa, and some of the restrictions have recently been eased.
An executive level worker that has plans to work in the US, could take a strategy of landing a position in their own country and then seeking transfer to a US office after an appropriate time period. This could be easier and more certain that entering the annual lottery for an H1B visa.
There Is Always an Option
Given these visa alternatives and the numerous H1B cap-exempt type of jobs, there are many options for a foreign national to work and live in the US. The key is to be flexible and creative in your approach, and be prepared to accept positions that may be a compromise that offer the chance to enter the country and earn a living while seeking the ideal job.
If you have questions about the H1B visa program, cap-exempt job, and other alternatives please contact us to that we can advise you based on your education and skills.
- October 5th, 2016