US work visa for UK citizen

For UK citizens looking to relocate to the States, applying for a work visa will be one of the many items on your list of things to do, but it remains one of the more critical.

In this guide, we the primary short-term work visa options and other practical considerations for UK citizens wanting to work in the US.

Do you have a question about which US Visa to Apply for as a UK Citizen?>

What type of US work visa will I need?

If you want to work in the United States, even for a temporary period, you will require a US work visa. You will not be permitted to work under a business visit visa, or under the 90-day Visa Waiver Program.

That said, there are a variety of visa options for UK citizens wanting to work in the USA, both in the short-term and long-term.

For those of you looking to live and work in the US on simply a short-term basis, you will need to consider the non-immigrant visa categories.

The E, L, H, O, I and P visa categories are the most popular. These will permit you to undertake employment in a wide range of roles, including:

  • Investing in, and running, your own business (E visas).
  • Transferring from an overseas company to an affiliated US office, or setting up a new office in the US (L visas).
  • Accepting sponsorship by a US employer to work in a minimum graduate-level occupation (H visas).
  • Accepting sponsorship by a US employer, or agent, to come to the US to work in your field of expertise in the sciences, education, business, athletics, arts, motion picture or the television industry (O visas).
  • Travelling on assignment to the US as a representative of the foreign media, including members of the press, radio or film whose activities are essential to the foreign media function, such as reporters, film crews and editors (I visas).
  • Participating in a sporting event or sporting activities as an individual athlete, or team of athletes, or performing at a specific event as an entertainer or artist, either individually or in a group (P visas).

What is a petition-based visa?

Typically, US work visas are based on a specific offer of employment from a sponsoring US employer. These are known as petition-based visas.

With a petition-based visa, your prospective employer must file a petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your behalf, before applying for your visa at a US Embassy or Consulate.

In the case of H-1B visas, your new employer will also have to file a Labor Certification Application.

Labor certification is issued by the Department of Labor and contains attestations by US employers as to the numbers of US workers available to undertake the employment sought by an applicant, and the effect of their employment on the wages and working conditions of US workers similarly employed.

How much does a US visa cost?

How much a US work visa application costs depend on the type of visa you are applying for.

If you are applying for a temporary visa, you will have to pay the Machine Readable Visa (MRV) fee, which costs $160 for tourist, business, student & exchange visas, $190 for petition-based applications (such as the H, L, O, P, Q, R), $205 for E-1, E-2 & E-3 visa applicants and $265 for K visas.

Some visa classifications also incur further fees for the employer/sponsor, such as the L visa and H1B.

Where do I apply for my US work visa?

After USCIS approves your petition, you will need to submit an online visa application to the Department of State and pay the appropriate non-refundable visa application fee. You will also need to schedule an interview with the US Embassy in London.

The interviewing consular officer will make a determination on your visa application based on the information contained within your online form, and any documentation submitted in support.

You will also be required to take various documents with you to interview, including your current passport, the application confirmation page and fee receipt, together with the receipt number for your approved petition.

After your visa interview, the consular officer will inform you as to whether further administrative processing is deemed necessary, or give you a decision as to whether your application has been approved.

Will my visa guarantee entry?

Even if you are granted a US work visa, this does not necessarily guarantee entry into the United States. Your visa is simply permission to travel to a US port of entry and request permission to enter.

Immigration officials at the airport or land border crossing have authority to permit or deny your admission to the United States. As such, you should carry with you any documentation from your prospective employer as proof of your work plans to show to the officer on arrival.

How long will my work visa last?

The validity period of your actual visa relates only to the time in which you may travel to the US and apply for admission. It does not indicate how long you may remain, although it may allow for multiple separate admissions over a period of time.

Having been granted entry to the US by a customs official at the port of entry, typically they will provide an electronic record of your arrival date, the class of admission and advise you of the permitted duration of your stay.

This can vary depending upon the nature of your visa status and the type of employment you are planning to undertake, for example, if you are granted O-status, the length of your stay will be determined by the length of time needed for you to perform the work required by your petitioning employer.

Can I extend my work visa?

In most cases, it is possible to extend a non-immigrant visa, in some instances indefinitely. The maximum period of stay will vary depending upon the category of visa and your ability to continue to meet the relevant criteria under that category.

By way of example, if you are granted H1B status, you will be allowed to come to the United States to work in your new role for a period of up to three years, although generally any extensions will not be allowed to go beyond six years.

In the cases of E-visas, you can seek unlimited visa extensions, although this can be a risky strategy for those wanting to live in the US on a permanent basis. The more secure option here would be to seek lawful permanent residence by way of an immigrant-based visa.

Can I apply for a green card?

Having established yourself in your new job role, you may decide that you would like to live in the US on a more permanent basis.

Although non-immigrant visas are only temporary, certain categories of non-immigrant visa are statutorily defined as “dual intent”, for example, the L1 or H1B visas. This means that you can enter the United States on a time-limited basis, but with immigrant intent. In other words, you can apply for permanent residence, or a green card, once you are there.

Need assistance?

To understand your visa options, take advice from experts in US immigration law. NNU Immigration are specialist US attorneys based in London. We help companies and UK nationals with applications for US work visas. For advice and help applying for a US work visa, contact us.

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