Generally, approximately 85,000 cap-subject H1B petitions are available each fiscal year, which includes 65,000 regular H1Bs and 20,000 H1Bs for graduates of masters’ programs (or higher-level education) from nonprofit U.S. universities.
Due to the large demand for H1Bs, there is an annual H1B lottery for the 85,000 available numbers.
The selection of a registration provides the prospective employer with an opportunity to file an H1B petition on behalf of the foreign national listed, such as an F-1 student working on F-1 optional practical training (OPT).
For non-selected individuals below options may throw some light to continue living and working in the United States.
Transfer to a Different Program of Study
Full-time students not selected in the H1B lottery and who are approaching the end of their F-1 optional practical training (OPT) or the two-year STEM OPT extension for eligible students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields, may consider transferring to another program of study. Sometimes, this option allows an individual to pursue employment authorization based on curricular practical training (CPT).
Generally, F-1 students should not engage in employment during their first academic year. However, since the student has completed an academic program in the U.S. in F-1 status prior to transfer, this restriction would not apply. Therefore, an F-1 student in this scenario potentially would be eligible for an immediate grant of CPT provided all other requirements are met – most importantly that CPT is an “integral part of the established curriculum.”
Although technically permissible, the USCIS often determines that a student employed on “day one” CPT during a substantial portion of the course of study, has violated F-1 status by engaging in improperly authorized employment. The basis for such a determination is that the students are not adhering to the purpose of the F-1 visa, which is primarily to study. Based on such a determination, the USCIS may deny a future immigration benefit, such as an extension or change of status (e.g. in connection with a future request for change of status) to another valid status within the U.S.
Employment Opportunity with H1B Cap-Exempt Employer
The annual quota or limit on H1Bs does not apply to some qualifying employers who are not subject to the annual H1B limitation. H1B cap-exempt employers include institutions of higher education or related or affiliated non-profit entities, non-profit research organizations, and governmental research organizations. Employment with a cap-exempt employer may provide an alternative option to those foreign nationals not selected in the H1B lottery.
If, after working in H1B status with a cap-exempt employer, a foreign national decides to work with an employer that is subject to the H1B cap, then, generally, the foreign national will have to file in the H1B lottery in the future. There are exceptions, with restrictions, for those who work “at” a cap-exempt employer’s work location or if a person has concurrent H1B employment with a cap-subject and a cap-exempt employer.
Countries with Qualifying Treaties with the U.S.
Nationals of Chile or Singapore may be eligible for employment in H1B1 status, subject to the annual limitation of 1,400 visas for Chileans and 5,400 for Singaporeans.
And, the E-3 visa for Australian nationals and the TN visa for Canadian and Mexican nationals.
And, the E-1 treaty trader and the E-2 treaty investor visas for foreign nationals of certain countries with qualifying treaties with the U.S.
Other Nonimmigrant Options
Those who have worked abroad for at least a year with a qualifying organization may be able to enter the U.S. to work in the L1A or L1B status. A person may be eligible based on outstanding ability for the O-1 status, or for J-1 status.
Working Remotely from Abroad
In some cases, if no option is available to continue working from within the United States, a foreign national worker may be able to continue employment with a U.S. employer from abroad. Generally, remote employment may be a viable option for F-1 students who have exhausted their OPT and have not been selected in the H1B lottery.
While U.S. immigration law does not come into play for foreign nationals working in their home country of citizenship, interested individuals are advised to consult with an international tax law attorney licensed to practice in the locality of employment, as there may be tax implications to be considered prior to starting remote work. Moreover, certain high-security jobs may require the person to be physically present in the U.S.
Although many foreign nationals rely on the H1B status to temporarily live and work in the United States, there are alternative options to consider if the H1B option is not available.
It is wise to seek a legal consultation to go through the alphabet soup of nonimmigrant options to determine eligibility under some other nonimmigrant options.