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Mark your calendars: between March 9 and 25, the 2021 H1B visa lottery will officially be underway.

While fundamental changes to the H1B program were proposed towards the end of 2020, those changes have since been put on ice by President Joe Biden. That means it’s business as usual for foreign nationals who are looking to immigrate to the United States as skilled workers.

Given the flurry of rumors and rapidly-changing details that have been circulating over the last few months, we’re setting the record straight on H1B visa eligibility for the 2021 lottery.

Recently reversed changes to the H1B program

In October 2020, then-president Donald Trump announced two significant changes to the H1B skilled worker program. The visa’s eligibility criteria became quite a bit more strict, requiring higher prevailing wages per level of employment and favoring workers paid at the higher wage levels at the lottery selection stage.

These modifications were rolled out in response to COVID-related job loss, making it more difficult for companies to hire foreign nationals instead of Americans who were looking for work.

// While it is lottery-based, the H-1B visa remains an excellent option when NAFTA is not available for your foreign worker.

Upon his arrival in office, President Joe Biden moved to delay the approval of these new rules until at least December 31, 2021. This year’s H1B lottery will therefore look just like any other, with 65,000 visas up for grabs for Bachelor’s degree holders (or equivalent) (as well as an additional 20,000 for workers who hold a Master’s degree).

While it is lottery-based, the H-1B visa remains an excellent option when NAFTA is not available for your foreign worker.

Who is eligible to immigrate via NAFTA (TN status)?

The TN status is designed for skilled Canadian and Mexican professionals who wish to work in the United States. Eligibility requirements for this program are quite straightforward, but they are particular in that the profession in question must be on the NAFTA list. It’s important to note that almost every TN category requires the applicant to have a bachelor’s degree.

To obtain a TN status, the applicant must:

  • Be a citizen of Canada or Mexico (permanent residents are not eligible)
  • Have a pre-arranged part-time or full-time job with an American employer (self-employment is not accepted)
  • Provide evidence that the American employer requires a NAFTA professional for the position in question
  • Provide evidence that their work experience is aligned with the position in question

Who can apply for the H1B program?

Like the TN status, the H1B is intended for workers with specialized skills or knowledge who hold at least a Bachelor’s degree. Unlike the TN status, individuals who do not hold a Bachelor’s degree but can demonstrate an equivalent combination of education and/or work experience may qualify. Also, the H1B is not limited to Canadian and Mexican citizens.

In sum, to apply for the H1B, you will need:

  • A bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or equivalent
  • A prearranged job that specifically requires specialized skills related to your degree or equivalent past experience

Get ready for the 2021 H1B lottery!

March 9 is right around the corner. If you need some last-minute advice or support in preparing your pre-lottery documentation, the attorneys at Exeo are here to help.

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