With March 2023 selection rates at an all-time low of just 10%, most applicants are now looking for alternatives. Here are a few options.
There is no limit on the number of "cap-exempt" H1Bs that can be granted to employees of certain nonprofit institutions. Once you have a cap-exempt H1B, any for-profit employer can then sponsor you for a "concurrent" H1B, allowing you to work for both employers at the same time.
Open Avenues is one such nonprofit organization that sponsors fellowships for part-time, cap-exempt H1Bs to mentor US university students for about 5 hours a week. After this part-time H1B has been obtained through Open Avenues, your primary employer may then sponsor you for a full-time, concurrent H1B. The fellow can keep the concurrent H1B for as long as she continues to participate in the fellowship program. The idea is she would keep doing this until the full-time employer wins a spot for her in the annual H1B lottery, or gets her a permanent green card.
O1 Extraordinary Ability Visa
If you have reached a high level of achievement and recognition in your field, you may qualify for an "Extraordinary Ability" visa. This visa requires that you show "sustained international or national acclaim" in your field by meeting at least three of the criteria from this official list.
While the standard for an O1 is high, many people are surprised to find that it's actually not too far out of reach. With a bit of effort directed towards strengthening your case for the three criteria that seem most obtainable given your particular background, an O1 may be a viable option.
If your prospective job in the US will consist largely of on-the-job training allowing you to obtain new skills, you may qualify for a J1 or H3 trainee visa. J1 visa holders must have a degree from a university outside of the US, and H3 holders must be able to demonstrate that the training they are seeking cannot be obtained outside of the US.
In both cases, the primary purpose of the role must be for the employee to obtain new skills with the intention of taking these skills back to their home country after the trainee program is complete. Any productive work must be purely incidental to the training.
Certain master's programs allow international students to work full-time on "Curricular Practical Training" ("CPT") from the first day of their program. These programs typically start at various times throughout the year, so the timing is flexible. Day-1 CPT students must attend classes online, with an occasional weekend trip to attend a class in person.
When considering a Day-1 CPT program, it's extremely important to vet the quality of the institution. In the past, unscrupulous institutions have abused the program, issuing CPT in exchange for tuition payments without also administering a legitimate course of study. For this reason, Day-1 CPT participants are heavily scrutinized by immigration officials.
Relocate to Canada with MobSquad
MobSquad is an innovative Canadian company that helps US businesses keep foreign workers who have been unable to obtain a US work visa. Mobsquad will hire the worker as an employee of their entity in Canada, obtaining a work visa in just a matter of weeks. It will then contract the employee out to work remotely for the original US employer.
While this doesn't result in US work authorization, it does allow the employee to relocate to the same timezone as the US staff, and make quick trips to the US for team meetings and other events.
Permanent Green Card
A company can sponsor a prospective employee for a green card at any time, whether or not that person is currently in the US. The process can take over two years to complete, so it's not a short-term solution. It can, however, be the long-term goal you're working towards while implementing one of the short-term solutions described above in the meantime.
We hope this list gives you a few ideas as you start your backup plan! Please keep in mind that there are many, many factors that go into determining whether or not any of the options above are advisable for a given person. You should always discuss your particular situation with an immigration attorney before moving forward with a particular visa or green card option. We are always happy to chat, so feel free to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys here.