Oh to be Australian, Canadian, Mexican, Chilean, or Singaporean

by Elizabeth Brettschneider


The H-1B is one of the most common visa categories that foreign nationals utilize to come to the United States to work for a US employer in a professional position.  The H-1B, however, is limited by Congress at an annual cap each year. Currently there are 65,000 H-1B visas available for those with a bachelor’s degree (or the equivalent) with an extra 20,000 set aside for those with a US master’s degree. Since it’s one of the most popular visa options, it is common for more people to apply than there are numbers available. This has resulted in an annual lottery of H-1B petitions. In previous years, the lottery pool has included petitions submitted on the first five business days the numbers become available (which is April 1st each year).  Of course, this often means that unless a foreign national is one of the lucky people to “win” one of the allotted H-1B numbers, she/he must wait and submit a new H-1B petition when the next year’s numbers become available. There are, however, special exemptions to the cap number as well as H-1B-like visa options for certain foreign nationals, namely those whose country of citizenship is Australia, Canada, Mexico, Chile, or Singapore. I examine these exemptions and options in the chart below (click on chart to open in PDF):

Through all the differences between the various visa categories, one thing is certain: it is good to be from a country that allows you options should an H-1B number not be available. In fact, depending on the situation, these may be even better options than the H-1B.