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H-1B Work Visa to the United States Fiasco


James Cohen

What Is the H-1B Work Visa to the United States?

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The H-1B work visa to the United States is one of the most popular ways to relocate and work in the US. The program was established in 1990 to alleviate employment shortages in what are called specialty occupations. These occupations typically require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree.

Congress established a cap of 65,000 visas to be issued each year. The cap remains unchanged, although 20,000 more visas were authorized several years ago for those with graduate degrees in certain occupations in the science and technology fields.

High Increase in Demand for the H-1B Work Visa to the USA

In recent years, the demand for these foreign workers became so high that the number of applications for the H-1B work visa to the United States wildly exceeds the allocated limits. The H-1B visas become available on October 1. Applications for such visas can only be made on the preceding April 1 or afterward. The reality is that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cuts off applications within a few days following April 1 each year. Even then, they receive far more applications than can be legally issued. Consequently, USCIS takes the timely filed applications and places them in a lottery. Those whose numbers are chosen have the opportunity to receive the work visa to the United States; those who don’t receive back their application fees. Last year, USCIS received 233,000 applications for 65,000 slots. Thus, only 25% of those who applied actually received visas.

Major businesses in the US have pressured Congress to increase the limits of work visas to the United States but all to no avail. The closest change occurred in 2013 when the US Senate passed a major immigration reform bill, only to die in the US House of Representatives. That bill dramatically increased the H-1B visa allowance. In the meantime, US businesses now are scrambling to prepare their H-1B visa applications, available on April 1, for various foreign workers, realizing that such applications will likely be subject to a lottery system again.

What Are Other Work Visas to the US?

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If an H-1B work visa to the United States application is returned, all is not lost. There are other options for US work visas. The O-1 visa is available to individuals with an extraordinary ability. This can include business people and professionals. For example, cyber security experts are in heavy demand. If such an expert is well known, has published papers, or has been written about in various publications, he/she may qualify for an O-1 visa. The good news is that there are no limits on the number of O-1 visas issued.

In addition, for certain occupations that are unique to Israel, such as Krav Maga or possibly certain scientific positions in agriculture, individuals might qualify for a P-3 visa, which is granted to individuals in countries that have culturally unique qualities. Finally, many Israelis could qualify for an R-1 religious worker visa, even though the applicant may not be religious. Because Jewish communities and synagogues in the US are looking for qualified Hebrew teachers, Israelis would almost automatically qualify.

Finally, if those categories don’t work, an individual could apply for a B-1 visa in lieu of an H-1B visa. Because of the limited number of H-1B visas available, embassies will consider granting a special B-1 (business tourist) visa in lieu of the H-1B visa. Unlike the regular B-1 visa which prohibits the carrier from working in the US, this visa does allow one to work, but only if paid by the individual’s employer in Israel.

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If you are looking for information regarding the H-1B work visa to the United States, any other type of US work visa, or immigration to the US, please contact us.

Work Visa to the United States

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