What if your application is not selected in the H-1B lottery?

It’s that time of the year again! Yes, you know what I am talking about: the H-1B lottery season. This year, 190,098 people are competing for 85,000 visas. I am pretty sure you all thought about this, but let’s summarize what options are available for you if your application is not selected in the H-1B lottery, assuming you won’t have another chance to file it next year. Here we go!


1. Check if your company can send you to another country (i.e. Canada, UK, Australia, etc.). If your company has done it before, great, go talk with your boss and HR manager, sooner is better. Even if the company never did so, you should still try to ask. An introduction email from your boss to his network in the UK could easily land you an interview with the London team of your company, you just never know. Oh, and don’t forget that you can find the work email of anyone in your company in any countries and reach out to them yourself right? Just be aggressive, persistent, and show people that you can add value.

Also remember that you could always come back to the US under H/L visa after one year if you company decides to sponsor you again. Definitely keep in touch with your current boss and team.

2. Go find yourself another job in another country. Definitely do it if you don’t want to pack your bags and go home yet. It won’t be that easy, obviously, but definitely shouldn’t be impossible. The truth is, many other countries in the world also welcome skilled workers. I’ve seen many Vietnamese/Chinese got jobs in Singapore, many Indian got jobs in Saudi Arabia, and many European got jobs in the UK. In fact, you should consider yourself a global citizen and search for available opportunities everywhere. Google and LinkedIn are your best friends. Do some research about the international leadership/management trainee/graduate programs, for example, you might be surprised about what you’ve been missing out.

3. Go for a master’s degree that allows you to study over the weekends, and that can help you obtain CPT to continue working for your current team, as long as they are fine with that. Then try your luck again next year. Does this sound crazy to you? I have a friend who went to 3 master’s programs to first, buy more time to get a job in the US, and then, to have more chances to apply for H-1B visa. I guess if you know for sure you really want something, go for it! (That guy finally got the H-1B visa last year FYI)

Some people even quit (or to be more precise, had to quit) their job and went to full time graduate programs in the US, giving themselves a break from the lottery system. Is that a better choice compared to the above weekend master’s degree programs? I don’t know, each has his or her own reason to do so. Some did not want to attend a no name school just to get the CPT so they applied to full time programs. Some others, however, only cared about maintaining their status in the country while still being able to continue their current job.

4. If you can (want to) do marriage filing or can (want to) afford EB-5, do it. No further comments.

5. Go home! Yes, your home country! Who knows many years later down the road, you will realize not getting selected in the H-1B lottery was the best thing that ever happened to your life/career? There are so many available opportunities waiting for you at your home country, you got the American education, you got the experience, so please don’t tell me that you think you are not competitive enough for the local labor market. Many friends of mine went home after not getting the H-1B visa and they are all doing great! It actually might be a great opportunity for you to do a self-reflection about what you really want to do.

After all, when a door closes another one opens right?

Good luck to all!

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