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Alternatives to the H-1B Visa Beyond Student and Employment-Based Visas

Less than a week after opening the five-day filing period for H-1B visa applications for fiscal year 2015, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has already surpassed the cap of 85,000 visas per year.

As a result, a lottery will be held to determine which of the many applications received on time will be considered. Applications not selected for review during the lottery process are rejected, leaving many individuals stranded with their student or other nonimmigrant visas about to expire, and no other way to obtain a student or employment-based visa.

Of course, if you are the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, your relative may be able to petition for you to adjust your status to permanent resident.

However, those of you who do not have this option may want to consider these non-student, non-employment-based alternatives:

U Visa

Individuals who have been victims of certain, specified crimes within the United States (including felony assaults, domestic violence, and sexual assault, among others) may be eligible to petition for a U visa. The U visa is a nonimmigrant visa that is valid for four years, and allows beneficiaries to become lawful permanent residents after three years. You can apply for the U visa even if your current immigration status is expired.

To be eligible for the U visa, you must have reported the crime against you to the authorities and have cooperated in the investigation and/or prosecution of the crime. The suspect need not have been convicted or even arrested, as long as you cooperated with law enforcement as best as you could throughout their investigation.

You must also show that you suffered "substantial harm" as a result of your victimization. Individuals who may be inadmissible due to history of immigration violations or a criminal record may still be eligible for the U visa with a waiver application.

Asylum

Individuals in the United States who are afraid to return to their countries of origin due to the risk of persecution may be eligible to apply for political asylum in the United States. Again, as with the U visa, you do not have to be currently in status in order to apply.

To be eligible for asylum, the risk of persecution to you must be based on either your race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or particular social group. This can be a difficult legal standard to meet, however those who do qualify and receive asylee status are eligible to apply to become permanent residents after one year.

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In short, if you have been a victim of a crime in the United States and have reported it to the police, or if you fear persecution in your country of origin, it is worth speaking to an immigration attorney to see whether you may qualify for one of these alternatives.

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