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What is the Relationship Between Non-Profit Organizations and the H-1B Work Visa?

An introduction to H-1B Work Visas and Non-profit Organizations:

Many benefits await foreign workers who secure an H-1B work visa and can now live and work in the U.S. 

While the H-1B work visa is the most competitive non-immigrant work visa (because the U.S. government caps new H-1B visas at 65,000 annually), there is a way around the cap number. Meaning; this could be the path you take if it is right for your circumstance.

For example, many non-profit organizations, including non-profit universities, are exempt from the H-1B work visa cap. 

As a foreign worker seeking a U.S. work visa, you’ll need to know which visas are H-1B cap exempt and how you can qualify for them.

Which Non-Profit Jobs Are H-1B Cap Exempt?

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), two categories of employers are exempt from H-1B visa quotas.

1-Institutions of higher education or affiliated entities

According to Section 101 (a) of “The Higher Education Act,” an institution of higher education must meet the following criteria to be exempt from the H-1B cap:

  • Admit students who have earned a high school diploma or equivalent secondary degree.
  • Be professionally licensed to provide education beyond secondary school.
  • Offer educational programs that award bachelor’s degrees or a minimum of 2-years of education towards a degree (i.e. associate’s degree).

2-Non-profit organizations associated with a government entity or an institute of higher education.

According to USCIS guidelines, the non-profit organization: 

  • Must be connected to an institution of higher learning by means of shared ownership and/or control, or as a branch, member or subsidiary. 
  • Non-profit research organizations that qualify are those “whose primary purpose is to directly contribute to the research or education mission of the institution of higher education.” 
  • Governmental organizations that are defined as “A United States Government entity whose primary mission is the performance or promotion of basic research or applied research.”

The most common non-profit organizations sponsoring H-1B work visas for foreign applicants are colleges, universities and establishments affiliated with institutes of higher learning. These typically include medical labs, research facilities and teaching hospitals.

H-1B Work Visas for Non-Profit Organizations

This cap exemption for “non-profit organizations sponsoring H-1B” work visa applicants means that your application is more likely to be approved if:

  1. your employer meets the cap exempt criteria and 
  2. you fulfill the eligibility requirements. 

It is possible for a cap-exempt employer to file a petition on your behalf to bypass the usual process. For university professors, teaching fellows, university based researchers, university owned hospital staff and others, this non-profit exemption offers a path to getting an H-1B work visa approved - unconstrained by predefined quotas that are also not subject to specific deadlines.

How Does the “H-1B Transfer to Non-Profit Organizations” work?

Workers who are currently already working with an H-1B work visa can file cap-exempt H-1B petitions for transfer to non-profit exempt status. The petition must identify a job offer in order to receive consideration for that H-1B transfer to a non-profit organization. Getting the transfer could extend the period you remain in the U.S., change your terms of employment and enable you to file extensions without being subject to the cap.

However, the transfer does not work the other way around. Workers who are already here on H-1B cap exempt work visas cannot seek employment with employers subject to the cap without going through the lottery application process.

Transfers from one tax-exempt employer to another are possible, and are another great benefit of the H-1B work visa for non-profit organizations.

In summary

If you are pursuing an H-1B work visa for non-profit organizations, it is important to know that you don’t have to navigate the complex U.S. immigration landscape alone. 

Working with Legalpad to help guide you through the process can improve your experience and alleviate some of the challenges. 

Legalpad believes that immigration is a catalyst for innovation and that hard working and gifted people deserve the chance to pursue any opportunity - regardless of birthplace. If you wish to grow your business in the U.S., reach out to us today and we’ll help you navigate the process.

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