H-1B Alternatives

The H-1B visa is a useful business immigration alternative when it comes to employment of professionals such as scientists, engineers, and computer programmers. There is an extremely high demand for these visas by American companies looking to employ foreign nationals with highly specialized knowledge. Unfortunately, only 85,000 of these visas are issued each year (65,000 “regular cap” plus 20,000 “advanced degree exemption” visas), and due to the high demand this limit is generally met within days of becoming available on April 1st of each year. If you or your company was unable to attain the H-1B visas you needed this year, there may be other options that work for you.

Take a moment to read through the following six options that may serve as viable H-1B alternatives:

E-1 & E-2 Visas – Treaty Trader & Treaty Investor.

E Visas are an alternative for many prospective employees because the treaties of trade and commerce were established specifically to allow foreign persons to come to the United States to conduct trade (generally import/export activities) or to manage investments. Treaty traders or investors must be citizens of countries with which the US has a treaty agreement. This visa can’t be used for employment with a US owned company but rather is used by companies owned by nationals of a treaty country. These visas may be issued to owners of the business or for employment of essential employees – managers or executives or those with highly specialized skills. Unlike the H-1B there is no limit on the number of E visas which are issued each year.

L Visas – Transfers of Employees of Multinational Companies

L visas allow multinational companies to transfer managers or executives (L-1A) or highly skilled employees with specialized knowledge (L-1B) to a US office from an office in another country. The foreign business must have a qualifying ownership relationship (parent, subsidiary or affiliate) with the US business. The employee must have been employed with the foreign office for at least one year out of the prior three years. The employees can be transferred to open a new office or to work in an already established office. This is one of the most sought-after visas because it most easily leads to US permanent residence.

O Visas – Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement

O visas allow for employment of individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or even motion pictures & television. To qualify for an O visa, the applicant must have achieved national or international acclaim, and they must have reached the very top of their field. If the potential employee in question is considered to be one of the small percentage of individuals who have reached the top of his or her respective field, the O visa may be a better alternative to the H-1B. This is a non-immigrant (temporary) visa that is comparable to the EB-1 immigrant visa.

TN Visas – North American Free Trade Agreement – for Canada and Mexico

The United States has negotiated employment provisions with Canada and Mexico as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The TN visa allows American companies to hire qualified employees from either Canada or Mexico to work in their US offices. The TN visa is similar to the H-1B in many ways and may be a useful alternative for employment when the H-1B is unavailable. Unlike the H-1B there is no limit on the number of TN visas which may be issued, which means that they can be obtained any time of the year without concern for the cap or the April 1st deadline that is a problem with H-1B visas.

H-1B1 – Free Trade Professional Visas for Chile and Singapore

The H-1B1 visa is a variant of the H-1B that is available for employees from Chile and Singapore. This visa option was established by the US-Chile Free Trade Agreement and the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. 6,800 of the 65,000 regular cap H-1B slots are set aside for H-1B1 visas, with 1,400 reserved for individuals from Chile and 5,400 reserved for those from Singapore. If the foreign employee is a citizen of Chile or Singapore, you stand a better chance of successfully obtaining an H-1B1 than you would an H-1B visa since the pool of potential applicants is limited to only those two countries.

B-1 In lieu of H-1B 

The US Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) recognizes a hybrid B-1 visa called the “B-1 in lieu of H-1B.” While the B-1 visa holder is not generally allowed to engage in productive work, the FAM provides for a limited exception for applicants coming to the US to perform duties related to their overseas employment. With this visa the applicants may perform professional work in the US for a short time (usually six months or less) but the salary must continue to be paid by the foreign employer. Reimbursement of incidental travel costs such as housing and per diem may be paid from US sources.

Contact Us

If you were unable to obtain an H-1B visa this year or you are worried that you won’t be able to attain the H-1B that you may need in the future, reach out to us to talk about the alternatives that could be available to suit you or your company’s needs. In many cases we can help you with other visa options that you may not have yet considered. Please don’t hesitate to contact the law office of Linda M Kaplan, PA.

Linda M Kaplan
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