As of March 27, 2021, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced which individuals were selected towards the Fiscal Year 2022 H-1B lottery. It is unclear whether the selections will continue through March 31, 2021. Immigration law sets an annual limit on these coveted work visas, doling out only 65,000 regular H-1B visas and an additional 20,000 H-1B visas for those with a U.S. Master’s degree or higher. Historically, the demand for these visas exceeded the supply by a ratio of about 3 to 1, and despite the economic recession and pandemic, the demand again exceeded the available supply this year because these workers are highly specialized and often work in high demand STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields.
There May Be a Another H-1B Lottery This Year
For those who are not selected by March 31, 2021, there is still a possibility that they may be selected in future rounds if USCIS determines that they have unused H-1B visas to issue by September 30, 2021. In the first round, USCIS selects a sufficient number of registrations to meet the H-1B quota, but some of those H-1B applications may be denied, withdrawn, or never submitted for a variety of reasons, leaving behind a surplus of unused visas. Last year, USCIS conducted a second H-1B lottery on August 14, 2020, distributing thousands of unused H-1B visas.
Alternatives to the H-1B Visa
If an employee is not selected in any H-1B lottery this year, it is prudent to consider other options for working in the U.S. until such a time when the individual is selected in the lottery in subsequent years. For example, consider the following:
Will Biden’s Immigration Reform Bill Help?
Last month, President Biden introduced the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 to Congress, a comprehensive immigration reform bill that included relief for the undocumented, Dreamers (DACA), agricultural workers, and even employment-based immigrants and nonimmigrants. For example, the bill includes provisions eliminating numerical limitations on immigrant visas (i.e., green cards) for doctoral students in STEM fields, and allows all H-4 spouses of H-1B workers to apply for employment authorization document (EAD) cards, even without an I-140 approval.
The legislative process, unfortunately, is slow and unpredictable, and it is not currently known if any of these provisions will pass or when. Further, even if any immigration reform passes both chambers of Congress, the final law will likely contain many revisions and there is no way of knowing what they may or may not entail.
Is It Time to Consider Canada or Working Elsewhere Abroad?
In some cases, unfortunately, none of the options mentioned above will work and the employer must consider offshoring the employee in Canada, in the employee’s home country, or elsewhere abroad. For example, MobSquad is a Canadian company with a partnership with the Canadian Government that was founded as a solution to the perpetual H-1B problem and helps U.S. companies start virtual subsidiaries in Canada and enables their employees to obtain Canadian work permits in 4-8 weeks and permanent residency in Canada in less than a year. Other companies that already have a presence abroad may choose to send the employee to work at their affiliate or subsidiary abroad for a period of at least 1 year, opening the door for an L-1A or L-1B visa to later return to the U.S. Others may choose to simply return to their home country and work for the employer remotely or as a contractor. These options of course require careful consideration related to tax, employment, and corporate law in the country where the employee may work.
Please contact an attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. to discuss alternatives to the H-1B. May the odds be ever in your favor.