How to Work at a Non-Profit on an H1B Visa

Updated on November 17, 2023
At a Glance: The H1B Cap Exempt category allows certain employers to bypass the annual cap of 65,000 H1B visas. Institutions of higher education and nonprofit organizations are eligible for cap-exempt petitions. Jobs in higher education institutions offering graduate or postgraduate programs and nonprofit organizations associated with a government entity and contributing to research or education qualify for cap exemption. Nonprofit teaching hospitals and organizations engaged in research also fall under the cap-exempt criteria. Tech professionals can benefit from cap-exempt positions in nonprofit organizations, providing opportunities to apply their skills in alternative ways, such as teaching or research. Consulting an immigration attorney is advisable to determine cap-exempt eligibility.

The H1B visa is a popular nonimmigrant, employment-based visa for skilled workers aiming to work in the US. It’s specific to specialty occupations and ties the holder to the sponsoring employer. Due to high demand, there’s an annual cap on H1B visas, leading to a lottery system among applicants. However, the H1B Cap Exempt category offers a pathway without the standard visa limit.

What is the H1B Cap Exempt?

Before we can get into finding H1B jobs are non-profits, we need to understand the H1B cap exemption. The Immigration and Nationality Act sets a yearly limit of 65,000 H1B visas, known as the H1B cap. However, the H1B Cap Exempt category allows certain employers to file petitions without a fixed annual limit. If your employer qualifies as cap-exempt and you meet the eligibility criteria, your visa can be approved without the standard quota constraints.

H1B Cap Exempt Jobs

The H1B cap-exempt category is unique as it doesn’t have a set annual limit and can be applied for any time during the year, making it highly sought after. To be eligible:

Previous H1B Status Holders

If you were previously on H1B status but are currently outside the U.S., you can apply for a cap exemption for the remainder of your allowed duration, up to 3 years. However, you must prove that you were in the U.S. on H1B status within the last six years and have not exhausted your H1B time.

Example: If someone was on H1B from February 2010 to December 2013 and hasn’t been in the U.S. in the past six years, they must apply in the regular lottery.

Cap-Exempt Jobs

Certain employers can file a cap-exempt petition for you. Eligible employers include:

  • Higher Education Institutions or Affiliates: Must admit students with secondary education, be licensed for post-secondary education, and offer programs leading to a bachelor’s degree or provide at least two years of education towards a degree.
  • Non-profit Organizations Affiliated with Higher Education or Government Entities: These can be connected through shared ownership/control, or as a branch, member, or subsidiary. A nonprofit research organization must primarily contribute to the research or education mission of the higher education institution. Governmental research organizations should mainly focus on basic or applied research.

Non-Profit Cap-Exempt Jobs

The Federal Register’s Final Rule expanded the eligibility for cap-exempt employers to include non-profits associated with state or local governments, not just federal entities. It also redefined a qualifying nonprofit organization from one whose “primary purpose” is research or education to one where it’s a “fundamental activity,” broadening the scope of eligible entities. Common examples of cap-exempt employers are colleges, universities, medical labs, research units, and hospitals.

How to Tell If an Organization is a Non-Profit

The first step to working at a non-profit on an H1B visa is to find out which companies are non-profits. There are a few ways to do this:

  1. Check Their Status with Tax Authorities: In many countries, non-profit organizations are registered and have a specific tax-exempt status. In the United States, for example, you can check if an organization is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity through the IRS website. Other countries have similar registries.
  2. Examine Their Mission and Operations: Non-profit organizations typically have a mission that focuses on serving the public interest rather than making a profit. This could involve educational, charitable, religious, or scientific endeavors. Examining their mission statement, annual reports, and the nature of their activities can give you insight into whether they operate as a non-profit.
  3. Review Financial Statements: Non-profits are usually required to disclose financial information to the public. Reviewing these documents can provide insights into how they generate and use their funds. Look for sources of income (like donations, grants, and fundraising) and how these funds are spent (on program services, administrative costs, etc.).
  4. Governance and Ownership: Non-profits do not have owners or shareholders and are typically governed by a board of directors or trustees. The governance structure should be focused on advancing the mission rather than distributing profits.
  5. Website and Public Information: Often, non-profits will clearly state their status on their website and in their public communications. They may also display information about their board members, key staff, and annual reports.
  6. Legal Documents and Registration: In some jurisdictions, non-profits are required to register with a government body and may have specific legal documents like articles of incorporation that designate them as a non-profit.
  7. Check with Local Non-Profit Associations or Registries: Many countries or regions have associations or registries of non-profits where you can search for an organization’s status.

Remember that the specifics can vary based on the country and region, as each has its own legal framework and requirements for non-profit organizations.

How to Get an H1B Visa for a Non-Profit Job

Once you’ve identified a non-profit job, follow these steps to obtain an H1B visa:

1. Find a Qualifying Non-Profit Employer

Look for employment with a non-profit organization that is either directly associated with an institution of higher education, a non-profit research organization, or a governmental research organization. These organizations are typically exempt from the H1B visa cap.

2. Job Offer and Role Alignment

Ensure the job offered aligns with your professional qualifications and is classified as a specialty occupation, which usually requires at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a specific field.

3. Employer Files Petition

Your employer must file an H1B petition on your behalf. This includes submitting Form I-129 (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They will also need to include documentation proving their non-profit status and how they meet the cap-exempt criteria.

4. Labor Condition Application (LCA)

Your employer must file an LCA with the Department of Labor. The LCA verifies that you will be paid a wage that is at least equal to the actual or prevailing wage for your position in the geographic area of employment and ensures that employing you will not adversely affect the working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed.

5. Compile Necessary Documentation

Prepare your documents, including proof of your qualifications (like degrees and work experience), passport, and any prior H1B visa documents if applicable.

6. USCIS Processing and Approval

After your employer submits the petition, USCIS will process it. If the petition is approved, USCIS will issue a Form I-797 Notice of Action.

7. Visa Application and Interview

Once the petition is approved, you can apply for the H1B visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. This involves completing the online visa application (Form DS-160), paying the visa fee, and scheduling a visa interview.

8. Visa Issuance

Attend the visa interview with all required documentation. If your visa application is approved, the consulate will issue your H1B visa, allowing you to travel to the U.S.

Remember, cap-exempt H1B visas can be filed at any time during the year and are not subject to the annual H1B visa lottery caps. Ensure that you and your employer carefully follow all legal requirements and provide accurate, complete information throughout the process.

How Non-Profit Jobs Benefit for Tech Workers

Even professionals belonging to the tech domain can avail cap exempt H1B visa. If you miss the regular H1B annual quota, you can explore relevant jobs in nonprofit organizations. To give you a clear picture, a software engineer employed by an IT company is bound by the H1B cap, but a similar position at a nonprofit organization may be subjected to cap-exempt.

Many US-based nonprofit organizations are looking for a diverse range of skills, including tech domain knowledge. The application of your skills may differ from traditional corporate jobs, but nonetheless, it gives you the opportunity to bypass the H1B visa cap.

Let’s illustrate the point with an example. Suppose, you are a computer programmer. If you get placed in a nonprofit entity, you may not be coding to build software, but teaching aspiring students how to develop computer programs. So you get an opportunity to pursue a career in your own domain, albeit with a little different practical application.

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Final Thoughts

The H1B visa is always in high demand. Due to the annual cap imposed by the US government, lots of eligible candidates miss the bus every year. If your bid to get H1B visa did not go through, then the cap exempt category is worth trying out. H1B cap exempt is a way of going around the fixed annual quota. There is no set annual limit under the H1B cap exempt category. So if you manage to get a suitable job with a cap-exempt employer, your H1B visa application is highly likely to get approved.

Non-Profit H1B Visa Jobs FAQ

What is a Non-Profit H1B Visa Job?

A non-profit H1B visa job refers to a specialty occupation in a non-profit organization that qualifies for an H1B visa without being subject to the annual cap. These organizations typically include higher education institutions, non-profit research organizations, or governmental research entities.

How is a Non-Profit H1B Visa Different from a Regular H1B Visa?

The primary difference is the cap exemption. Non-profit H1B visas are not subject to the regular H1B visa cap, which means they can be applied for year-round and are not part of the annual lottery system.

Who Qualifies for a Non-Profit H1B Visa?

Qualified applicants are those who have a job offer in a specialty occupation from a non-profit organization affiliated with higher education institutions, a non-profit research organization, or a governmental research organization.

What are the Requirements for a Non-Profit H1B Visa?

The requirements include having a job offer from a qualifying non-profit employer, the position being a specialty occupation, and the employer filing an H1B petition on the applicant’s behalf.

Do Non-Profit H1B Visas Have an Annual Cap?

No, non-profit H1B visas do not have an annual cap. They can be applied for at any time during the year.

Can I Transfer from a Regular H1B Visa to a Non-Profit H1B Visa?

Yes, you can transfer from a regular H1B visa to a non-profit H1B visa. Your new employer must file a new H1B petition under the cap-exempt category.

How Long Can I Stay in the US on a Non-Profit H1B Visa?

The initial H1B visa is usually granted for up to three years and can be extended. The total duration of stay is generally the same as a regular H1B visa, up to six years, unless specific exemptions apply.

Are There Specific Wage Requirements for Non-Profit H1B Visa Jobs?

Yes, employers must pay at least the prevailing wage or the actual wage for your position, whichever is higher, similar to regular H1B visa requirements.

Can Dependents Accompany Non-Profit H1B Visa Holders?

Yes, dependents (spouse and unmarried children under 21) can accompany the primary visa holder on an H-4 visa.

Is It Easier to Get a Green Card with a Non-Profit H1B Visa?

The process of getting a green card is independent of the H1B visa type. However, working for a non-profit organization does not inherently make the green card process easier or harder.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.