Do Scholars Need To Wait for the H-1B Visa Lottery?

The H-1B visa system is a popular avenue used by skilled foreign workers to expand their professional skills across borders and into the United States. While there are numerous benefits that come with this visa category, the downside to an H-1B is the need to wait for strict filing dates and hope that your registration is chosen in the random lottery, where a cap of 65,000 regular and 20,000 advanced registrants are selected to move forward and file a petition. But there’s a way around this limitation if you can find a cap-exempt employer, and those in the scholarly field often meet the conditions to do this quite naturally. Read on to find out if a scholar you know (or you yourself) can skip the lottery process and obtain an H-1B more easily.

Components of a Qualifying H-1B Petition

The H-1B visa category is for non-immigrants with skills that qualify the beneficiary to work in a specialty occupation. By definition, this refers to a job that requires both the theoretical and practical application of a particular body of highly specialized information as well as the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher (or the equivalent) in a field directly related to the position. In general, scholarly positions fall under this category.

While most employees work for private entities, such as corporations and for-profit businesses, many academic jobs are non-profit or at institutions of higher learning. These, as well as certain government research jobs and non-profits affiliated with higher ed institutions, are frequently classified as cap-exempt. 

The same requirements apply to cap-exempt jobs with one essential distinction: The beneficiary may file an H-1B petition at any time of the year and begin working as soon as it is approved, whereas a cap H-1B has filing and start date restrictions.

Regardless of whether the scholarly position in question is cap or cap-exempt, a sponsor is required. There must be a job offer from a qualified US employer willing to file the registration and petition on behalf of the employee. 

Should the job be a request to transfer from one employer to another, the new employer still needs to file an H-1B petition before the employee can switch jobs. This is because the H-1B visa is position-specific, so the beneficiary must always abide by the terms of the visa for the length of their stay in the US. 

Skipping the Wait With a Cap-Exempt H-1B Visa

Academic positions at a cap-exempt level are often highly competitive. However, if you have the experience, knowledge, and skills to stand out in your field, it can’t hurt to apply for as many of these positions as possible while you await a general H-1B visa job.

Look for higher education institutions, nonprofit entities related to or affiliated with those institutions, or nonprofit or government research institutions. Check their history of H-1B visa approvals. When you find a job you’re interested in and qualified for, submit your application. There may not be a current position open, but your resume and CV will remain on file, and the hiring managers will now know you exist. Should a position open up that you are qualified for, it will be easier to get your foot in the door.

Many of these entities have restrictions on H-1B sponsorship for scholars. They look for those individuals who wish to teach, research, or take on clinical positions full-time. The sponsor and employee must meet all qualifying factors for Department of Labor and USCIS approval, including prevailing wage requirements, background checks, and experience.

It can be challenging to stand out from your peers and obtain a scholarly position for a cap-exempt employer. Yet, if you have the reputation, skills, and experience, the extra work involved in applying and interviewing is often worth the hassle in the long run.

What’s Next?

As a scholar, you are likely in the rare position of having the academic background to qualify for a cap or cap-exempt job position. Whichever avenue you’re interested in, having a skilled legal expert on your side streamlines the process significantly. Our professionals at Visa2US are available all day, every day, to answer your questions and get you started on this impressive path to career success!

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H-1B Visa

H-1B Visa

H-1B visa is used by businesses and organizations in the United States to employ foreign nationals with the preferred qualifications, knowledge, and expertise in a role.

I-485 Adjustment of Status

I-485 Adjustment of Status

Submit a form I-485 application to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

An applicant must either hold an advanced degree or have an exceptional ability in their field that would substantially benefit the U.S. to be qualified.