Applying for a US work permit visa?
There are various US work permit visa options available to non-US nationals looking to live and work in the United States. Below we examine the most popular choices for overseas investors, traders and workers, and how to apply.
US work permit visa for business owners
If you are looking to buy into a business in the US, or to invest in a brand new start-up business, you may be eligible for the E2 Treaty Investor visa.
The E2 visa is a nonimmigrant work visa for nationals of countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation, and who wish to invest a substantial amount of capital in a US enterprise.
To qualify you must be travelling 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.
The investment must be more than a marginal enterprise solely for earning a living for you and your family, and although there is no legal investment minimum, in practice you will probably need at least US$100,000 to invest.
You will also need to show at least 50% ownership of the enterprise, or possession of operational control through, for example, a managerial position.
Please note that the E2 visa will also permit the senior or essentially skilled employees of the principal investor to work in the United States.
US work permit visa for international traders
If you already have established trade links with the United States and are looking to expand further into the US market, you may instead be eligible for the E1 Treaty Trader visa.
As with the E2 visa, the E1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for nationals of countries with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation, and who wish to enter the US for the purpose of carrying out international trade.
To qualify you must be travelling 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 such as goods, money and services between the US and your treaty country.
There must also be a sizeable and continuing volume of trade based on an existing trading relationship, in which over 50% of your international trade should be with the US.
Please note, as with the E2 visa, the E1 visa will also permit the senior or essentially skilled employees of the principal trader to work in the United States.
US work permit visa for intra-company transferees
For those of you who are looking to transfer with the same company or organisation from an overseas office to an office in the US, you may be eligible for what’s known as an L1 Intra-Company Transfer visa.
The L-1 visa is a nonimmigrant work visa for employees of multinational companies who are being temporarily transferred to a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary of the same company in the United States.
There are two types of L1 visa: the L1A and the L1B. The L1A visa is for employees who hold an executive or managerial role, while the L1B visa is for employees working within a role that requires specialised knowledge of the products, services, policies and procedures within their organisation.
The L1 visa also enables a multinational company that does not yet have an affiliated US office to send an overseas executive, manager or specialised knowledge employee to travel to the US with the purpose of establishing one.
To be eligible for an L1 visa you must have worked for the company in an executive or managerial capacity, or as a specialised knowledge employee, for one continuous year out of the previous three years, and be seeking to enter the US to undertake work in the same or a similar role.
For companies seeking to send a key professional employee to the US to establish a new office, the employer must show that they have secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office.
Your employer will also need to show that the new office will support an executive or managerial position within one year of the approval of the petition for L1A visa holders, or that they have the financial ability to compensate you and begin doing business in the US for L1B visa holders.
US work permit visa for specialized professional employees
For those who hold graduate degrees, or have degree equivalence experience or qualifications, you may be eligible for what’s known as an H1B Speciality Occupation visa.
The H1B visa is a nonimmigrant work visa for at least graduate level workers wanting to undertake a job role in a speciality occupation that requires theoretical or technical expertise.
To qualify as a “specialty occupation” the job must require a bachelor’s or higher degree as a minimum entry requirement or, alternatively, you may be able to show degree equivalence through work experience and/or other qualifications.
You must also be able to demonstrate that you are uniquely qualified for the position in question because of your field of study or work experience.
You will first need the offer of a job from a US employer who is prepared to sponsor you, and who can then petition for a H1B visa on your behalf.
US work permit visa for those with extraordinary ability
For those who are exceptionally talented and at the top of your field, you may be eligible for what’s known as an O1 Extraordinary Ability/Achievement visa.
The O1 visa is a nonimmigrant work visa for individuals who possess an extraordinary ability, or have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement, in their field.
There are two types of O1 visa: the O1A and the O1B. The O1A visa is for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics, while the O1B visa is for those with an extraordinary ability in the arts or, alternatively, extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry.
To qualify for an O1 visa, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim, or that you possess a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, and must be coming to the US to continue work in this area.
Applying for a US work permit visa
The process of applying for a US work permit visa will vary depending on the visa classification.
Where a US employer is required to sponsor you, they will first need to file a petition on your behalf to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) using Form I-129.
In some cases, as with an H1B visa, prior to filing any petition your prospective employer will also need to file a Labor Certificate Application with the Department of Labor. Only once approval has been granted by the DOL can your employer then petition to USCIS.
Once the petition has been approved by USCIS, you may apply for your US work permit visa with your US Embassy or Consulate. You will need to submit online Form DS-160 and schedule a consular interview.
You will be required to attend with a number of documents in support. You should also expect detailed questioning during interview relating to your prospective work role and other matters that form the basis of your application.
Please note, with some nonimmigrant visas, such as the E1 and E2 visas, you must show your intention to depart the US when your visa status comes to an end. However, the L1 and H1B visas are dual intent visas. As such, these potentially provide a pathway to permanent residence.
A dual intent visa will allow you to lawfully enter the US on a time-limited nonimmigrant basis, albeit with immigrant intent. In other words, you may be able to apply for your green card while classified under a temporary US work permit visa.
The rules relating to nonimmigrant visas can be complex, and a considerable amount of documentation will need to be submitted in support of your application.
The nature of what needs to be included will vary depending on the category of visa under which you are seeking to work in the USA, and expert advice should always be sought.
NNU Immigration are London-based US immigration attorneys. Contact us for guidance with your US work permit visa application.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.