How can you come to work in the United States or to do business in the country without investing at least half a million dollars? Well, the answer is simple – consider temporary worker visas and other types of business-related visas.  In that context, H-1B is the queen of temporary work visas.   

A short description of H-1B: This is a non-immigrant specialty occupation visa allowing you to accept temporary employment within your profession in the United States. Also, it allows your spouse and children under age 21 to enter the United States and remain in the country for the duration of your H-1B period.   

The key disadvantage of H-1B is that it is subjected to a Congressionally-mandated annual cap of 85,000 applicants. Considering that in April 2016 the USCIS received over 236,000 applications, and in April 2017 nearly 200,000, it is easy to calculate that the chances of being selected are approximately 1:3.  

What can you do if you were not selected for H-1B? You may want to consider alternative types of business-related visas.   

L-1: For Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager (L-1A) or Specialized Knowledge Employees  (L-1B)

L-1 is available for executives, managers, and employees with specialized skills to be transferred from their foreign company to a U.S. subsidiary or affiliated company, for the purpose of  performing temporary work. A prospective L-1 visa holder must have been employed by the foreign entity for at least one year during the three year period immediately prior to filing the petition as an executive, manager or specialized skill worker.  

More importantly, being a “dual intent” visa, L-1 might be a starting point for obtaining legal permanent residency.  

Example: A foreign company decides to enter the U.S. market and sends one of its top managers to develop the business.  

O-1: For Individuals with Extraordinary Abilities or Achievements  

O-1A is a non-immigrant visa for individuals possessing extraordinary abilities or achievements in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry for whom O-1B is designed). you will find more about O-1.

Being a “dual intent” visa, O-1 might be a good starting place to successfully petition for EB-1, the first preference category for U.S. employment-based permanent residency.  

Examples: A tennis coach whose athletes have achieved extraordinary success in their sport; an entrepreneur who has established a successful enterprise; a scientist whose publications are cited within the scientific community; a martial artist who has won numerous sport titles and championships.  

P-1/P-3: For Internationally Recognized Athletes, Members of an Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group, or Artists or Entertainers Coming to the US to Be Part of a Culturally Unique Program

P-1/P-3 visa categories are non-immigrant visas allowing the above-mentioned individuals to enter the United States and remain there for the duration of a particular event, competition, or performance.  

As with O-1, in order to get a P-1 petition approved, you must prove that the prospective employee satisfies at least three out of six specified (there are separate for athletes).  

P-3 is for employees entering the United States to be part of a culturally unique program (e.g., a Jamaican reggae band coming in the United States to perform a concert tour; a rhythmic gymnastics coach offering the techniques and know-how of a Russian gymnastics school).

E-1/E-2: For Treaty Traders and Investors  

These types of visas allow owners/co-owners of American enterprises to remain in the United States:

  • E-1 – to direct an American business and develop trade between the United States and a treaty country, or  
  • E-2 – to direct finances invested in an American enterprise.  

One of the key requirements is that you must be a citizen of one of countries.  

E-2 might serve as a stepping stone for getting an EB-5, the fifth preference category for U.S. employment-based residency.

H-3:  For Trainees or Special Education Visitors

H-3 might be available for those invited to participate in training programs conducted in the United States. These programs might be organized by an American branch of a foreign-based entity or a third-party American company. Most importantly, an employee cannot have access to the same training in their country of origin.  

Example: Before a project launch, a global company gathers its foreign employees to conduct a training in the company’s American office.  

R-1: For Religious Workers  

In the case of R-1, religious workers may enter the United States to perform their religious duties with a non-profit religious organization. The R-1 beneficiary must prove their affiliation with a particular religion for at least two years immediately prior to filing the petition.   

After two years of working in the United States, there is an opportunity for them to petition for EB-4, the fourth preference category for U.S. employment-based permanent residency.  

Examples: priests, religious instructors, religious interpreters.    

B-1: For Short-Term Business Visitors

Finally there is a B-1, allowing you to enter the United States for short-term business visits.  

Furthermore:

There is also NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) for professionals who are citizens of Canada or Mexico, and E-3 for citizens of Australia.

As you can see, H-1B does have several alternatives.