Temporary Work Visa Options for the USA

Under US immigration law there are various different classifications of work visa that will allow foreign citizens to undertake work on a time-limited basis in the United States. Below we look at the nature of the “temporary work visa USA” and some of the different options that are currently available.

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A temporary work visa USA is a non-immigrant visa that will allow the holder to undertake paid employment in the United States on a time-limited basis. This is in contrast to an immigrant visa that grants a foreign citizen permission to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis.

That said, even with a temporary work visa USA, this will still allow you to live and work in the United States for prolonged periods of time, even several years. Moreover, in most cases, albeit subject to continuing to meet all applicable visa requirements throughout your stay, this type of visa can be renewed or extended, sometimes even indefinitely.

Temporary work visa options USA

There are several different types of temporary work visa USA to choose from, depending on the nature of the work that you will be seeking to undertake and what you want to achieve. In particular, there are work visas for the following areas, although this list is by no means exhaustive:

  • Starting your own business
  • Trading in the USA
  • Transferring to a US affiliated office
  • Accepting a skilled job offer with a US employer
  • Working in your specialized field in the USA.

Starting your own business

If you are looking to start your own business or buy into a business in the USA you will need to consider the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa. The E-2 visa is a non-immigrant work visa for citizens of countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation, including the UK, and who wish to invest a substantial amount of capital in a US business enterprise.

To qualify for an E-2 visa you must be coming to the United States solely to develop and direct the operations of a bona fide enterprise in which you have invested, or are in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital.

As a general guide, you will need a minimum of US$100,000 to invest, although in exceptional cases applications with investment amounts as low as US$50,000 may be considered. You will also need to show at least 50% ownership of the enterprise, or possession of operational control through, for example, a managerial position. The E-2 visa can also be used for any senior or skilled employees that you will need to help you set up or run your business.

Trading in the USA

For those of you with a business overseas but who have already established trade links in the United States and are looking to expand further into the US market, you may want to consider the E-1 Treaty Trader visa. This is a non-immigrant visa that allows citizens of countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation to carry out international trade in the USA.

To qualify for an E-1 visa you must be coming to the United States solely to carry on substantial trade, rather than for any other purpose. There must be an actual traceable exchange of qualifying commodities, for example, goods and services, between the US and the UK. There must also be a sizable and continuing volume of trade based on an existing trading relationship.

There is no limit on the amount of trade that must take place, although greater emphasis is placed on the volume of transactions over the total monetary value. Further, the total volume of your international trade, ie; at least 50% of that trade, should be principally with the USA.

As with the E-2 visa, the E-1 visa can again be used for employees who will be engaging in duties of an executive or supervisory character, or if employed in a lesser capacity, have special qualifications that are essential to your operations in the USA.

Transferring to a US affiliated office

If you are currently working for a multinational company and your boss has asked you to transfer from an overseas office to an affiliated US office, you will need to consider the L-1 Intra-Company Transfer visa. This is a non-immigrant visa for employees of international companies who are being transferred to a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the same company in the USA, albeit on a time-limited basis.

There are two different types of L-1 visa: the L-1A and the L-1B. For those in a managerial or executive role you will need to apply for an L-1A visa, while the L-1B visa is for those with specialised knowledge about the products, services, processes or procedures within their organisation. The L-visa classification also enables an overseas company that does not yet have an affiliated US office to send a senior or skilled employee to the United States with the purpose of establishing one.

To qualify for either and L-1A or L-1B visa you must have worked in your current role for at least one year in the past three years, and have an offer to work in the same or similar capacity for a branch of the same company, organisation or employer in the United States.

Further, the company or organisation that you currently work for must have a qualifying relationship with a parent company, branch, affiliate or subsidiary in the USA. Here, the overseas and US firm must have common majority ownership or common control by the same persons or entities.

In the event that you are being transferred to help set up a new office in the United States, premises must be secured to house that office. As an L-1A employee, your employer must also show that the intended US office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition, or as an L-1B employee, that your employer has the financial ability to commence doing business in the USA and to remunerate you. 

Accepting a skilled job offer with a US employer

Where you have been offered a graduate level job from a US employer, you will need to consider the H-1B Speciality Occupation visa. This is a non-immigrant visa for graduate level or professional workers looking to undertake a job role in a speciality occupation that requires theoretical or technical expertise.

To qualify for an H-1B visa, you will need a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specialty for which authorisation is being sought. That said, if you do not have a bachelors degree, you may be able to show degree equivalence through work experience and/or other qualifications.

Working in your specialised field in the USA

There are also other visa options available for those of you who are exceptionally talented, or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement, and want to come to the USA to work in your specialised field. In these circumstances, you should consider either the O-1A or O-1B Extraordinary Ability/Extraordinary Achievement visa.

The O-1A visa is for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics, while the O-1B visa is for those with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim. Extraordinary ability means a level of expertise indicating you are one of a small percentage who has risen to the very top of your field. To demonstrate extraordinary achievement, on the other hand, you must possess a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered.

This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

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