Alternative Work Visa Options in the US for Foreign Nationals: What to Consider When the H-1B Lottery Fails You (ABC’s H-1B series final series)

Each year, many foreign nationals apply for H-1B visas to work and live in the United States. However, with the annual H-1B visa lottery and the limited number of visas available, many qualified candidates may be left without a visa. This is why it’s important to explore other work visa options that may allow you to work and live in the United States on a temporary basis. In this article, we’ll provide a snapshot of possible work visa options that may be available to you if you’re not selected for the H-1B visa lottery.

Cap-Exempt H-1B Visas

There are certain categories of cap-exempt H-1B visas available to foreign nationals who have (or hope to have) an employment offer from an institution of higher education, a nonprofit/government research organization, or a related or affiliated nonprofit entity. It’s not mandatory for the prospective H-1B employee to be employed by the qualifying institution, as long as the work performed predominantly furthers the institution’s primary or essential purpose.

Other Professional Specialty Worker Visas

There are three nonimmigrant visa categories that are similar to H-1B visas that are designated for temporary professional workers from specific countries. These visas are based upon specific trade agreements that foreign nations have signed with the United States. The H-1B1 visa is designed for nationals of Chile and Singapore, while the TN visa is available for Canadian and Mexican temporary professional workers. Nationals of the Commonwealth of Australia may qualify for E-3 temporary work visas.

Treaty Trader/Investor Visas

A foreign national may qualify for an E visa depending on the type of agreement their country of citizenship has with the United States. There are two types of E visas: Treaty Trader visa (E-1) and Treaty Investor visa (E-2). For an E-1 visa, a foreign national entering the United States is required to be engaged in substantial trade which is international in scope, principally between U.S. and the foreign state. The E-2 visa requires the foreign national to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which they have invested, or is actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital.

Foreign Students Employed on Post-Completion OPT

Foreign graduates of U.S. universities who are not selected for the H-1B visa lottery may be eligible for a special STEM OPT extension. The STEM OPT extension is long enough to allow for H-1B petitions to be submitted in two additional fiscal years (two H-1B cycles). Students who do not hold STEM degrees may choose the option of going back to school.

Always Consider the Option of the L-1 Visa

Employees employed by companies with an offshore presence can explore the potential use of the L-1 visa option. The L-1 visa classification facilitates the temporary transfer of foreign nationals with management, professional, and specialized knowledge skills to the United States.

An Extraordinary Opportunity to Work Around the H-1B Cap Is to Get an O-1 Visa for Extraordinary Ability

Foreign nationals with “extraordinary ability” in the field of science, art, education, business, or athletics may qualify for an O-1A visa, while an O-1B may be appropriate for a foreign national with “extraordinary achievement” in motion picture or TV production.

Final Thoughts

Before packing your bags and leaving the U.S. after being left out of the H-1B visa lottery, it’s important to explore your work visa options.

For more information about the H-1B nonimmigrant work visa process or to consider H-1B nonimmigrant work visa options, the immigration and nationality lawyers and attorneys at the Nachman Phulwani Zimovcak (NPZ) Law Group, P.C. invite you to visit them on the web at or to email them at or to call the firm at 201.670.0006 (x104).