The H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa may be requested by an employer who seeks to hire an alien on a temporary basis to perform work in a specialty occupation. Specialty occupations are those requiring a professional who has earned at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, and generally includes work in architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts. The employee must possess the requisite qualifications. In limited circumstances, an individual with no degree may still qualify for this classification if he or she has substantial work experience. The employer must offer an appropriate salary to each H-1B worker based on Department of Labor statistics.

Though the H-1B Visa is among the most common work visas issued, only a limited number are made available every year. 65,000 visas are issued annually and another 20,000 visas are issued to applicants who earned at least a master’s degree from a U.S. school. Certain organizations, chiefly colleges, universities, and their nonprofit affiliates, are exempt from these limitations and may file regardless of whether visas are available. The result of these severe numerical limitations is that visas are exhausted quickly. The filing period has been limited to just five days each April since 2012 and a random lottery is held to determine which applicants may be issued H-1B Visas.

Free Trade Alternatives

Under several United States Free Trade Agreements, visas are available to professionals from certain countries to work in specialty or otherwise designated occupations. H-1B1 Visas are available to nationals of Singapore (5,600 visas annually) and Chile (1,800 visas annually) and E-3 Visas are available to nationals of Australia (10,000 visas annually) who meet the general qualifications for an H-1B classification. The application process for these alternative visas vary significantly from the regular H-1B process and in addition to the increased availability of visas, they can usually be obtained faster and with less expense than a standard H-1B Visa.

TN Visas or Status are available to nationals of Mexico and Canada who seek to enter the United States to work in any of a specific set of occupations outlined in the North American Free Trade Agreement. TN classification has no annual limit and is a particularly fast option for Canadians who may apply at the U.S. border without any previous approval.

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Because of the limited number of H-1B Visas, it is imperative that petitions be filed timely and correctly. Greenberg Visa Law has significant experience preparing challenging H-1B cap cases and cap-exempt cases as well as substantial expertise on the available alternatives when H-1B Visas are unavailable. Contact us now to discuss your case.