With the unpredictable yet consistent changes to the H-1B visa process, many employers and H-1B visa holders are looking for alternative visa types to enter the U.S. workforce.
Here are some alternatives to H-1B visa:
For citizens of Canada and Mexico, the TN is a viable alternative to the H-1B visa. The TN visa is established per the North American Free Trade Agreement to admit qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to temporarily enter the United States to engage in professional business activities. Employees may qualify for a TN visa if they are Mexican or Canadian nationals working as NAFTA approved professionals.
Canadian citizens are not required to apply at a U.S. consulate for the TN visa and must merely submit proof of Canadian citizenship, a job offer indicating the length of stay, and required credentials to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer at a U.S. port of entry. Mexican citizens can acquire a TN visa prior to entry by applying directly at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The initial stay for a TN visa is one year, renewable in one-year increments without limitation.
The primary advantage to obtaining a TN visa over an H-1B visa for qualified foreign nationals is that there is no limitation on renewals. The visa is renewable indefinitely as long as qualifications are met. The treaty agreement between nations also helps the petitioner avoid the long delay of filing a full petition in the U.S. There is also no cap on TN visas. Lastly, the broad list of professions which can qualify for a TN visa may prove advantageous to persons whose occupation could never qualify as a specialty occupation under an H-1B visa.
An L-1 visa allows U.S. corporations with related entities abroad (such as a parent, subsidiary, branch or affiliate) to temporarily transfer workers with specialized knowledge or managers and executives to the U.S. In order to qualify, the employee must have worked for the foreign entity for at least one continuous year during their last three years of employment.
The transferring employee may be granted an initial stay of up to one year if they are coming to the U.S. to assist in establishing a new office. All other qualified employees can be granted a maximum initial stay of up to three years. Stays can be extended in two-year increments up until the maximum stay of seven years has been reached.
The E1 visa “Treaty Trader” is part of the family of U.S. visas that are available to citizens or national of one of 30+ countries that have trade treaties with the United States.
The E1 visa allows individuals, or employees of companies, to enter the U.S. to carry out international trade. The definition of “trade” is not strict. It may apply to the trading of goods, services, and even banking. There is no set limit to the amount of trade that must take place, although a greater emphasis is placed on the number of transactions over total value.
Although the E1 visa does not provide a path to residency (Green Card), one of the significant advantages is that it can be extended in two-year increments indefinitely, provided the conditions are being met.
For trainees and persons wishing to gain experience or knowledge of the prospective employer’s products, the J-1 or H-3 visas can be an option. The J-1 visa is designed for those who intend to participate in an approved exchange program. The H-3 visa is designated for foreign nationals aspiring to come to the U.S. for training in any field (other than graduate medical education) not available in their country.
Post-graduates can obtain a limited-term (12 months) employment under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. STEM degree holders (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), however, may request an extension for up to 24 months under the OPT rules.