Note: We’ve made every effort to ensure that the information in this article is correct at time of publishing. However, because visa and immigration laws are complex and ever-changing, please check the U.S. Department of State or U.K. Home Office website for the most up-to-date information on visa requirements.

With immigration reform high on the U.S. political agenda and the cap on H-1B visas remaining fixed despite rising demand, many highly skilled workers from overseas with job offers in the U.S. are struggling to secure a visa. The good news is that there are many options available to those seeking to gain legal status to work in the U.S., and we see many students overcome the arduous visa process and H-1B lottery every year.

Understanding the cap

The H-1B is the visa that enables foreign specialist talent to be temporarily employed in the U.S. Applications for these visas are continuing to rise year on year; in 2014, over 170,000 people applied. However, the cap remains fixed at 65,000 with an additional 20,000 available for those with a U.S. Master’s degree or higher. This causes around 50% of otherwise eligible applicants for the H-1B to miss out on the opportunity to work in the U.S.

Overcoming the trap

The process of applying for the H-1B visa itself, like many employment visas, is complicated, both for the employer and the employee. Getting a thorough understanding of the requirements of the H-1B can be a lengthy and confusing process and it’s worth consulting an immigration attorney to get this right. It’s vital that you have a thorough understanding of the requirements, including what documents you’ll need to supply, and the process for filing your application.

There are also several other options you can consider as a foreigner trying to enter the U.S. job market. Firstly, if you’re already studying in the U.S., you can apply for OPT (Optional Practical Training) which allows you to work in the U.S. for a year after graduation to gain practical training in a field that is related to your studies. This is a popular option for many students on our U.S. campuses and our Visas and Compliance teams run workshops to support them through the process.

Secondly, the H-1B is not your only visa option. There are several visas you can apply for to allow you to work temporarily in the U.S. Some are limited to designated countries and may have a long wait time attached to them. Conditions may also not be as attractive as those of the H-1B, which offers three years stay plus three years extension.

Lastly, it can pay to play the long game. The U.S. might be your ultimate destination country, but it doesn’t mean you have to go straight from studying in the U.S. to working in the U.S. In fact, you may accelerate your career if you look at jobs in other markets first, with a plan to return to the U.S.later. The L-1 visa allows multinational employees to transfer into the U.S. after one year of work in another country. Even U.S.-educated students who are successfully employed on OPT may choose not to pursue the H-1B and instead leverage their U.S. degree and work experience in their home country or another ‘hot market’ country. After one year of work outside of the U.S., you may be eligible to transfer back into the U.S. on an L-1 visa. Currently there are no caps on the L-1, so it gives foreign workers much more predictability and control of their work life.

So where can you go to for help with this complex, high-stake process? Consulting an immigration attorney is the sensible thing to do; they are specialists and will know all the ins and outs of the process and be able to advise you about all of your options. Tools like VisaNow also offer help navigating the visa process for both employers and employees.

If you’re a business student, your school’s Career Services and Visas and Compliance Offices will be able to offer guidance. As a global business school with students of more than 140 nationalities and seven locations across the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, and China – we are intimately familiar with visa requirements and processes, in both the U.S. and the rest of the world. We work closely with our students to ensure that they are fully informed of all their options, advise them on where the best opportunities are, and support them in their efforts to enter the local job market.

Having some fun with the app

One Hult alum who has had success with the H-1B visa is now hoping to bring an element of fun to the process of researching visa options. Piyush Mishra, a Hult MBA alumnus from the Class of 2012, is in the early stages of developing an innovative new gaming app called GetVisa to provide an entertaining solution to finding out about U.S. visas. The app aims to help with understanding the U.S. visa process, exploring other visa options outside of the H-1B, and understanding what you need to do prior to starting an application, by simulating the process in a first-person role-play.

Piyush came from his home country of India to pursue his MBA at Hult’s San Francisco campus in 2011 and secured a job as a business analyst at the headquarters of the multinational banking and financial services company, Wells Fargo. After his initial H-1B application was unsuccessful, Piyush continued his studies in the U.S. and was able to successfully be sponsored on an H-1B the following year. Using the knowledge gained from his own experience with the U.S. immigration system, Piyush aims to take the pain out of the visa process for other overseas workers by giving them a fun and light-hearted way to educate themselves.

International visa requirements and U.S. career playbook

If you would like to find out more about Hult’s global business programs, download a brochure here.


Helpful links to more information:

H-1B visa application process: H1 Base
H-1B visa requirements:USCIS Visa Guide (H-1B Specialty)
L1 visa information: USCIS Temporary Workers
U.S. temporary worker visas overview: U.S. State Gov. Temporary Visa Overview
Online tools to help with visa application process: VisaNow

Piyush Mishra and the GetVisa app:  ‘GetVisa aims to make the visa process fun

Hult offers a range of highly skills-focused and employability-driven business school programs including a range of MBA options and a comprehensive one year Masters in International Business. To find out more, take a look at our blog My Masters in International Business: Looking back on a life-changing year. Download a brochure or get in touch today to find out how Hult can help you to learn about the business world, the future, and yourself.