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My OPT is about to expire, what are my visa options?

By August 4, 2022Immigration
Shoes and a bunch of arrows and a question mark on the ground meant to symbolize options

If you studied in the U.S. and you are now working in the U.S. on your OPT work authorization that is about to end, you may be wondering what are your visa options and how you can stay in the U.S. This blog post will summarize some work visa options for you.

STEM OPT

If your U.S. degree is in the field of science, technology, engineering, or math, you could qualify for a 24-month STEM OPT extension. In order to be eligible for the STEM extension, you must have been granted your initial 12-month OPT period for the STEM degree and have an employer who is enrolled in E-Verify, which is a system that confirms employment eligibility.

You can read more about the STEM OPT Extension here.

TN visa

The TN visa is a non-immigrant visa open to Canadian and Mexican professionals who have a job offer in a profession that appears on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (“USMAC”) profession list.

Not all professions are on the TN visa list and the TN visa regulations specify which professions qualify. Professions such as lawyer, engineer, accountant, architect, graphic designer, computer systems analyst, or interior designer qualify. Another important thing for the TN visa is that you need to have the required credentials to qualify under a particular TN category (this is either education or combination of education and work experience).

You don’t need to worry if you just graduated and you don’t have any work experience in your field. As long as you have the required education as specified in the TN regulations, you don’t need any prior work experience in your profession to qualify for the TN. This is a great advantage as many recent graduates from U.S. universities can easily qualify for the TN.

Another advantage of TN visa for Canadians is the fast processing. If you are a Canadian, you can simply apply for the TN visa at the border and the officer will let you know whether the case is approved right away. No petition needs to be filed with USCIS or the Consulate.

Please see our Blog post that goes over the TN visa requirements in detail here.

H-1B visa

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that permits a U.S. company to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations. The H-1B worker must either have at least a Bachelor’s degree from a U.S. University (or its equivalent from a foreign university) in the specialty occupation. The position in the U.S. must be a specialty occupation, meaning, that not all U.S. jobs would qualify.

There are a limited number of new H-1B petitions that USCIS can adjudicate every year. Every year around March, the government runs an H-1B lottery and randomly selects 85,000 petitions.

This means that the H1b may be a good option, but the employer (unless the employer is cap-exempt) can only file the petition in March of each year. If the petition is not selected in the lottery, the employer has to wait until next year to go through the lottery process again. Even if the petition is selected in the lottery, that does not mean that the petition is approved – this just means that the employer has an opportunity to file an H-1B petition and USCIS will make a decision on the case.

For an H-1B visa, your degree and the job in the US must be in the same field. You don’t need any prior work experience to qualify for the H1b.

E-2 visa

An E-2 visa is a great option if you want to start a business in the U.S., you are willing to  invest a substantial amount of money in the U.S. and you plan to hire U.S. workers. Please see the E-2 requirements when you click here. To qualify for an E2 visa, you must be a national of an E2 visa treaty country. Please see a list of

E-2 visa treaty countries here.

If you are a recent graduate, the E2 visa may be a good option for you if you have a substantial amount of money you are willing to invest and if you want to run your own company and you are willing to hire US employees.

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