U.S. Law Center

Alternatives to the H-1B visa program

The H-1B visa program allows U.S. employers to employ certain foreign workers. April 1, 2019, was the first day U.S. employers could file a cap-subject H-1B petition for a foreign worker for the 2020 federal fiscal year. While the federal government has not yet released filing numbers, there is a good chance that it accepted enough petitions to fill the 65,000 available slots. 

If your organization is subject to the cap and missed out this year, you may have to wait until next April to hire the perfect candidate. Or, you can look for alternatives to the H-1B visa program that may allow you to employ a foreign worker sooner. Here are some possibilities.

Practical training 

Foreign students often attend universities in the United States. If a student has an F-1 visa, he or she may be eligible for either optional practical training or curricular practical training. For some individuals with science, technology, engineering or math degrees, a two-year extension of work authorization is possible. This may cover the gap until the H-1B program opens again. 

A TN visa 

Certain citizens of Mexico and Canada are eligible for a TN visa. To qualify for this status, though, individuals must work in a NAFTA-designated occupation. Nonetheless, if you find a Mexican or Canadian to fill your role, the TN application process is usually significantly simpler than petitioning for H-1B status. 

An L-1 visa 

If you have foreign operations, you may be able to bring an employee to the United States on an L-1 visa. The L-1A category is for international executives and managers, while the L-1B category allows you to transfer foreign employees who have specialized knowledge. 

An O-1 or P-1 visa 

For applicants who have extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, business, athletics or entertainment, O-1 and P-1 visas are possible. To qualify for this visa category, though, the individual must be the best of the best.

Missing out on the H-1B cap can be tremendously frustrating. Fortunately, your company likely has some alternatives that are worth exploring. While this list is not exhaustive, it should give you a general idea of some substitutes for the H-1B program.

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