H-1B Alternatives: What Happens When You're Not Selected in This Year's Lottery

The H-1B visa is a popular document coveted by millions of foreign workers yearly. Because it’s so sought after, the requirements to qualify are stringent, with only the most highly qualified specialty workers able to meet them. But even if you have a sponsoring US employer and meet the bar for the requirements, you still have to go through the random lottery system to begin petitioning for an H-1B visa. What happens if you aren’t one of the limited number chosen by USCIS’s lottery this year? Well, you don’t have to give up on your goal of entering the US for employment yet. Here, we’ll review your options for H-1B visa alternatives.

The Annual Visa Cap

Unless your employer is a cap-exempt institution, your petition request must go through the lottery system. USCIS established this because of the high demand for H-1B visas. It is intended to be a fair method of choosing who is approved and who is denied.

85,000 H-1B visas are allotted each year, yet many more people petition for these. Out of the 85,000, 20,000 are reserved solely for petitioners with advanced degrees of a US master’s or equivalent. Those petitioners are entered into the first lottery, and if they aren’t chosen, their request automatically moves into the second one, giving them an extra chance at being selected.

If yours isn’t one of them, you can wait and try the following year again, or you can look into these alternatives.

Apply for a Cap-Exempt Job

The fastest route to an H-1B job in the United States is through a cap-exempt employer. It's not always simple to obtain these sponsored positions, but if you qualify and can find someone willing to sponsor you, you skip the lottery system. You can enter the US anytime without adhering to strict time limits and deadlines.

Cap-exempt jobs include those in higher education institutions, affiliated nonprofit entities, and nonprofit and government research organizations. If you receive a job offer from a cap-exempt employer, they can file the H-1B visa at any time of year and do not need to be concerned about quotas.

Move Into Practical Training (F-1 Students)

The next step for students in the US on F-1 visas is to attempt to obtain an H-1B visa to remain in the country and work. But if you were unable to do this, you can apply for Optional Practical Training (OPT). This allows you twelve more months to receive pre- or post-completion of your studies on a student visa, and you can reapply for the lottery the following year.

STEM students have an advantage over other students in that they receive an optional 24 months post-completion of their final STEM course.

Other Visa Possibilities

While the H-1B visa is assuredly the most advantageous for foreign workers, it’s not your only option. Your immigration attorney can help you decide if you qualify for other visas and inform you about what you need to do to apply for them.

Some other visa possibilities include:

●     The L1 visa for employees in multinational companies with offices in the US;

●     The TN visa for Canadian and Mexican residents wishing to work in the US professionally under the North American Free Trade Agreement;

●     The O-1 visa for foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the areas of science, education, art, athletics, motion pictures/television, or business;

●     The E-3 visa for Australian foreign nationals with specialty occupation jobs;

●     The EB-1 visa (first preference) for noncitizens of extraordinary ability in special occupation jobs;

●     The J-1 visas for anyone traveling to the US to participate in Department of State-approved programs for education.

If any of these sounds like they may pertain to you, talk to your immigration attorney. Visa2US has helped countless people like yourself obtain their H-1B visas and decide what to do next if they don’t get selected in the lottery.

Try Again With a Higher Degree

Finally, if you’re determined to get into the US and you have some time to wait, you can head back to school and continue on to your advanced degree. This has the disadvantage of expense and time, but it increases your odds of getting offered a cap-exempt job or getting selected in the next year’s lottery.

What’s Next?

So you didn’t get chosen for the H-1B visa in this year’s lottery. What should you do next?

As you see, there are plenty of other options. However, it’s best to talk to an immigration expert, like those of us at Visa2US, before you proceed. You’ve already invested time and expense into applying for the H-1B visa. You want to ensure your next steps are the right ones to move you forward in your career path.

Contact Visa2US online or over the phone, and we’ll answer all your questions and guide you along your journey. Our experts will help you understand your options and determine what your best chances to get into the United States are. We’re waiting to assist you 24/7!

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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.