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HomeTipsH-1B Visa Alternatives: Finding Alternative Visa Paths

H-1B Visa Alternatives: Finding Alternative Visa Paths

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The H-1B visa registration window for fiscal year 2024 has finally ended after an extension by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) due to technical issues with the registration website.

As it is already known, the H 1B visa is a highly desirable work route into the U.S., so being selected in the H 1B lottery doesn’t mean you will be automatically granted a visa. After your selection, you will have to file a comprehensive petition to prove your eligibility.

Since the H 1B visa is very competitive and the chances of obtaining it are very slim, you may consider other alternatives to H 1B visa petitions.

Other options are L-1, O-1, E-1 and E-2 visas. Knowing each of these H 1B visa alternatives, exploring other work visas and options, and how to obtain them will help you choose the most suitable one.

The L-1 visa

If you work for a company from one of its offices in another country, you can live and work in the USA. L-1 visas are specialized employee visas that allow businesses with branches, affiliates, parent, or subsidiary companies in the U.S. to transfer certain employees.

Categories of L-1 visa

There are two L-1 visa categories: the L-1A and the L-1B. The L-1A visa allows a company to transfer its managers and executives to its U.S. office. The L-1B visa is for employees with indispensable specialized knowledge or skills.

For each of the L-1 visa types, there is a requirement that you have worked for an employer for one continuous year within three years before being granted permission in the U.S. If you have previously worked in the U.S. under an H1B visa, the time required may be deducted.

You should note that regardless of the L-1 visa type you are qualified for, it is the “petitioning employer” that submits the visa application. What it means is that you cannot self-petition; your employer is the petitioner while you are the beneficiary. But if you’re a standout talent in your field aiming for self-petitioning, the EB-1A visa is tailor-made for individuals like you.

O-1 visa

Foreign workers are eligible for an O-1 visa if they possess extraordinary abilities. This means that individuals with extraordinary ability in their specialty occupation may apply for a nonimmigrant visa. An O-1 work visa is one of the most prestigious nonimmigrant visas for entering the U.S. due to its many advantages compared with other similar nonimmigrant visas. Immigration services approve O-1 visas for three years.

Visa h-1b visa alternatives

Categories of O-1 visa

The O-1 is of two types: O-1A and O-1B. The O-1A visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics. The O-1B visa is for those with extraordinary ability in the arts or those who have achieved exceptional achievements in the motion picture or television industry.

Based on the rules behind an O1 visa, only a few foreign nationals qualify for each visa type. For instance, an O1A visa applicant must show sustained national or international acclaim; this is one of the very few individuals who have made it to the top of their field.

Also, an O1 individual must temporarily relocate to the U.S. to work in their specialty occupation. However, the specific duties to be performed in any given role do not necessarily require extraordinary ability.

A non-immigrant visa holder in this category can continue in nonimmigrant status and simultaneously seek to adjust their status to permanent residency. What this means is that a non-immigrant visa holder in the O1 category can apply for a green card even while temporarily working in the U.S.

E-1 and E-2 Visas

A citizen of a country with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation or certain other international agreements can apply for E1 and E2 nonimmigrant visas. The E1 visa will allow a national of a treaty country to come to the U.S. solely to engage in trade for a significant amount. This is usually between the U.S. and the treaty country. Such nationals can also work in the treaty trader’s U.S. company as a skilled employee or in a supervisory or executive role.

The E2 visa will permit a national of a qualifying treaty country into the U.S. to direct and develop the operations of an existing or new U.S. enterprise in which they have made a substantial investment. In addition, a senior employee or an employee of a treaty investor with skills essential to the business operation may qualify for an E2. With an E1 or E2 visa, you can work in the U.S. for up to two years. After that, you can renew it unlimited times as long as the business remains active and you’re actively involved.

TN Visa

TN visas are available to Canadian and Mexican professionals who want to do business in the U.S. If you have applied for the H 1B visa and are not lucky, a TN visa will allow you to enter and stay in the U.S. for up to three years. This route into the U.S. is possible for Canadian and Mexican nationals because the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) established trade and economic relations between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

Optional practical training (OPT) for F-1 students

International students in the U.S. can apply for OPT for 12 months. After finishing your bachelor’s degree, practical training can allow you to stay in the U.S. on a student visa. You can then apply for the H 1B lottery again the following year. If you obtain employment authorization (form I-765) and receive your EAD (employment authorization document), you can start your OPT.

There is also an OPT extension. Optional practical training extensions favours STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) graduate students. Therefore, if you are a STEM graduate and are on 12 months of practical training and do not have H 1B status yet, you can apply for a further 24 months of OPT if the employer participates in the e-verify online employment verification program. During the OPT extension, you might get lucky in the H 1B lottery when you apply.


Although no other non-immigrant visa can replicate the H 1B visa, each visa type has its benefits. Therefore, when looking to work in the U.S., it is imperative to seek expert advice from an immigration specialist. By so doing, you can explore all available options and decide which one suits you best.

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