Life Beyond H-1B

President Trump signs an executive order to try to bring jobs back to American workers and revamp the H-1B visa guest worker program during a visit to the headquarters of tool manufacturer Snap-On, April 18, 2017 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Immigration experts say there are other visa options for Indians hoping to come to the United States. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — The 2018 cap for U.S. H-1B visas may have been reached but immigration experts say Indian applicants, who form the majority of H-1B recipients, have other options, including the L1 and EB5 visas.

U.S. missions around the world April 3 began accepting H-1B applications for fiscal year 2018. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, it received 199,000 H-1B petitions during the filing period.

On April 11, the USCIS used a computer-generated lottery to select enough petitions to meet the 65,000 general-category cap and the 20,000 cap for those with advanced degrees from the U.S.

The new Trump administration has also sought to make acquiring H-1B visas more difficult. The USCIS issued a clarification March 31 stating that in order to be eligible under the H-1B visa regulations, computer programmers must prove that theirs is a specialty occupation. Merely obtaining a computer degree may not be enough.

Meanwhile, a private member's bill was also introduced in the U.S. Congress by Democrat Zoe Lofgren, which seeks to increase the minimum salary of H-1B visa holders from the current minimum of $60,000 to $130,000.

The bill, if passed, will impact the margins of IT companies, the biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B visa program, or their clients will face higher charges for the work performed, Mark Davies, Global Chairman of Davies & Associates, LLC, which specializes in U.S. immigration law, told IANS in an email interview.

According to Abhinav Lohia, Partner and Practice Chair of India and Southeast Asia at Davies & Associates, Indian companies will now have to scout for American talent or opt for alternatives like L1B or L1A visas to send workers to the U.S.

L1 visas facilitate the temporary transfer of foreign workers in the managerial, executive or specialized knowledge categories to the U.S. to continue employment with an office of the same employer.

The L1 visa can help as "a lot of U.S. companies prefer to deal with a local company or someone on the ground in the United States representing a foreign company instead of dealing directly with the foreign company," Lohia explained.

"U.S. presence gives the U.S. companies/clients confidence since U.S. courts will most probably have jurisdiction over disputes," he added. "Also, the companies that establish a presence in the United States also register their intellectual property there, which again is viewed favorably."

Of course, the H-1B and L1 visas are for employees. If you have enough money, you can opt for the EB5 visa, Lohia said.

For an EB5 visa, the applicant needs to invest $500,000 in a Targeted Employment Area or $1,000,000 in a non-TEA and the investment should result in 10 jobs.

Recently, there has been a sharp spike in the number of Indian applicants for EB5 visas and Lohia cites multiple reasons for this, including the fact that the U.S. is a better country to retire in and that there are more opportunities to expand business operations. 

According to Davies, parental gifting of the funds necessary for an EB5 application may now be the only option for Indian students seeking employment after graduation in the U.S.

Lohia said that EB5 and L1A visas may lead more quickly to permanent residence and eventually to U.S. citizenship.

"It puts an end to the dependence on the employer for staying in the United States," he said.

"Upon being fired from his/her job, an H-1B visa holder may have to leave the country along with his/her family, whereas once someone gets permanent residence they are no longer dependent on others for their stay in the U.S., as long as they are law-abiding and renew their Green Card on time."

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