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Obtaining a Work Visa USA in 2024

The United States offers incredible prospects to foreign nationals looking for new work opportunities.

There is a broad range of US work visa classifications to consider, and selecting the most suitable will be your first step to securing the relevant permission to live and work legally in the USA.

If your plan is to work in the US temporarily, you will need to apply for a nonimmigrant work visa. It is not permissible to work on a visitor visa or with ESTA authorization under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

US visa applications take time to compile and submit, so even where you have a leadtime of months, it can help to start thinking early about the route that best suits your requirements and what you will need to do and evidence when making your application.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the various types of work visas available in the USA, each tailored to different skills and employment scenarios.

Selecting the right visa for your circumstances is only the first step. US visa applications across all classes are heavily scrutinized, making a well-prepared and comprehensive application critical to your prospects of being granted the visa. You will need to provide sufficient evidence to the authorities to prove that your skills and experience meet the relevant eligibility requirements, and you may have to show why a resident worker could not be recruited instead. You will also need to prepare well for your visa interview.

NNU Immigration specializes in US work visas, helping employers and employees secure the necessary permissions to travel to the US to undertake work.

For guidance on a US work visa application for you or your employees, contact us.

 

Section A: Types of Work Visas in the USA

 

The US immigration system provides various different classifications of work visa that will allow foreign citizens to undertake work in the United States.

Temporary US work visas are officially categorized as nonimmigrant visas, as they allow the holder to undertake paid employment in the United States on a time-limited basis. This is in contrast to an immigrant visa, which grants a foreign citizen permission to live and work in the United States on a permanent basis.

Some of the more common temporary worker visa types include:

 

a. H-1B visa: For foreign graduates or experienced professionals looking to work in a speciality occupation that requires theoretical or technical expertise and for whom they have a US sponsor.

Read more about H-1B here >>

 

b. L1 visa: For foreign employees of multinational companies looking to transfer within the same company to an affiliated US office or to establish a new office.

Read more about L1 Visa here >>

 

c. O-1 visa: For foreign individuals who have extraordinary ability in certain fields and have a US sponsor.

Read more about O-1 Visa here >>

 

Other work visas focus on specific job or worker types niches, such as the I visa for media professionals, the P visa for performers, the R visa for religious workers, the Q visa for cultural exchange programs, and the C-1/D visa for crew members.

There are also visas for those wanting to work in the US in a business capacity: the E-2 visa for foreign investors, or employees of the principal investor, looking to buy or invest in a US business enterprise; and the E1 visa for foreign traders or employees of the principal trader, looking to come to the United States for the purpose of carrying out international trade.

To understand your visa options, take advice. Our specialist US attorneys can guide you through your options to ensure you proceed with the best route for your needs and circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. H-1B Visa for Sponsored Workers in Specialty Occupations

 

The H-1B visa allows non-US nationals to be employed in the US, where they have a qualifying job offer from an eligible US employer and where they meet the eligibility criteria and application requirements.

The H1B visa is for skilled, educated individuals in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise, such as engineering and computer science. As a qualifying candidate, you must be at least graduate level or be able to show degree equivalence experience. The H-1B is open to graduates and experienced professionals, provided they are eligible.

To qualify as a specialty occupation, the job must require a bachelor’s or higher degree as a minimum entry requirement, or the nature of the specific duties are so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.

There are strict caps on the number of H-1B visas granted annually: 65,000 for each fiscal year and 20,000 additional visas for foreign nationals holding advanced degrees from US educational institutions.

The H1B application process comprises set stages and deadlines and is run on an annual basis. Applicants will need to familiarise themselves with the process to avoid delays or missing the annual windows.

This is a highly competitive visa category, with the number of applications typically far exceeding the visas available each year. Given the high volume of H1B registrations received each year, there are no guarantees of success with an H-1B application, and it may be advisable to consider alternative immigration options or to make a new application during the next window.

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. If you continue to meet all the relevant conditions, you may request an extension of stay for a further three years, up to a maximum of six years.

After six years of H1B status, you may become eligible for a Green Card.

H1B workers can also be accompanied by dependents under the H4 visa.

The H1B visa will only enable you to work for a specific employer in the United States. As such, if you change jobs, your new employer will need to file a fresh petition on your behalf prior to the expiry of your existing status. This is known as an H1B visa transfer for which legal advice should be sought.

Read our detailed guide to the H1B visa here >>

 

2. L-1 Visa for Intra-company Transfers

 

 

 

 

 

The L visa enables intra-company transfers, allowing non-US employers to deploy employees to US subsidiaries or branches on a temporary basis.

There are two types of L visa, depending on the skills, experience and role of the individual applicant:

 

a. L-1A – intra-company transfers of managers or executives for an initial period of up to 2 years. Renewals can be applied for in increments of two years, up to a maximum of seven years.

 

b. L-1B – intra-company transfers for individuals with ‘specialized knowledge of the product or service being sold by the US employer. Initially granted for a period of up to 2 years, renewals can be applied for in increments of two years, up to a maximum of five

 

In either case, you must have worked for the company in an executive or managerial capacity or as a specialized knowledge employee for one complete year out of the previous three and be seeking to enter the US to undertake work in the same or a similar role.

The overseas company or organization that you work for must also have a qualifying relationship with a parent company, branch, affiliate or subsidiary in the United States. In other words, there must be common majority ownership or common control by the same persons or entities.

If you are granted L1 status, you will be allowed to come to the United States to further your career for a period of up to three years. Thereafter, if you continue to meet all the relevant conditions, you may request an extension of stay.

For intra-company transferees entering the US to establish a new office, a visa will be granted initially for a period of just one year.

For L1A visa holders, extensions may be granted in increments of up to two years until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years. This slightly differs for L1B employees, where requests for an extension of stay have a maximum limit of five years.

The L1 visa also enables a multinational company that does not yet have an affiliated US office to send an overseas executive, manager or specialized knowledge employee to travel to the US with the purpose of establishing one.

Companies that transfer multiple non-US nationals to US-based operations should look at the Blanket L, which provides a faster and simpler process for transferring qualifying employees under the L1 route.

For new US companies, the L-1 individual can be granted a visa for up to 12 months.

For foreign companies who regularly transfer employees to the US, there is the option to apply for the Blanket L visa, which permits the employer to issue an L visa without first filing a petition with USCIS, expediting the process. This applies only to companies with three global offices, one of which is a US office which has been operating for at least one year. The US office must demonstrate revenues of $25 million or 1000 US employee or 10 individual L-1s filed within the last year.

It may also be possible for an L-1A visa holder to apply for US permanent residency in the first preference green card category.

More on the L visa >>

 

3. O-1 Visa for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievements

 

As an exceptionally talented individual in your field of expertise, you may be looking to progress your achievements or share your knowledge in the United States.

The O-1 visa category is for individuals who have reached the pinnacle of their professional 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 either for those with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture or television industry.

In your application, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim, or you must possess a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, and you must be coming to the US to continue work in this area.

Importantly, the O visa also requires the applicant to have a sponsor.

The O-1 visa can be granted for up to three years and can be extended provided there is a clear showing of ongoing activities in the United States. O-1 visa holders may be joined by key individuals under the O-2 category who assist in “the artistic or athletic performance” of the O-1 visa holder and dependents under the O-3 visa.

More on the O visa >>

 

4. Other Types of US Work Visa

 

a. I visa for Media Professionals 

Under US immigration rules, media workers are not allowed to enter the US visa-free to undertake paid employment in the US.  They must instead have been granted an I visa, a visa category specifically for foreign media professionals – including journalists, bloggers, production teams and photographers – to come to the US to work.

The I visa application requires the applicant to detail both their own credentials and the nature of the work and media content that is the subject of the visit to the US. The visa adjudicator will need to be satisfied that the content meets the requirements under the media visa, or the visa will not be granted.

 

b. P Visa for Performers 

The US P visa category is designated for athletes, entertainers, artists, and their support personnel involved in specific US events, with several subcategories: P-1 for internationally recognized athletes and entertainers; P-2 for participants in reciprocal exchange programs; and P-3 for culturally unique performances. The duration of stay depends on the event, with P-1 visas for athletes valid for up to five years and extendable to ten years, while P-1, P-2, and P-3 visas for entertainers are typically valid for the event duration, up to one year, with possible annual extensions. Dependents can join on P-4 visas, allowing school attendance but not employment.

Read more about the P visa here.

 

c. Q Visa for Cultural Exchange Programs 

The US Q visa is for individuals engaged in international cultural exchange programs designed to share cultural perspectives and traditions through employment and practical training. This visa category, which does not include subtypes, allows participants to share their home country’s culture, history, and traditions. Holders may stay in the US for the duration of their program, up to 15 months, with a mandatory one-year departure before reapplying. The Q visa is non-renewable and doesn’t lead to permanent residency. Dependents cannot accompany Q visa holders, who must secure other visa types for family visits during their stay.

 

d. R Visa for Religious Workers 

The US R visa is tailored for religious workers, including ministers, priests, rabbis, and other religious vocations like missionaries and liturgical workers. This nonimmigrant visa permits initial US residence for up to 30 months, extendable to a total of five years. Eligible holders may pursue permanent residency under specific conditions, such as demonstrating ongoing employment needs by their religious organization. Dependents can join the primary visa holder under R-2 status, allowing them to reside in the US and attend school, though they cannot work without a separate work visa.

 

e. E-3 Visa for Australian Specialty Workers

Specifically for Australian citizens, this visa allows individuals to work in a specialty occupation in the US. Applicants must have a legitimate offer of employment in the US and possess the necessary academic or other qualifying credentials.

Read more about the E3 visa here.

 

f. TN Visa

Under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), Canadian and Mexican citizens can engage in professional business activities in the US on a temporary basis. Categories of professions eligible under the TN visa include engineers, accountants, doctors, and scientists.

 

g. E2 Visa for Treaty Investors 

The E2 visa is for overseas investors looking to buy or invest in a US enterprise.

As a treaty investor, your reason for coming to the US must be to develop and direct the operations of a bona fide enterprise in which you have, or are in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read more about the E2 visa here >>

 

h. E1 visa for Treaty Traders

The E1 visa is for overseas traders who have established trade links with the US and are looking to expand further into the US market.

As a treaty trader, you must be coming to the US solely to carry on substantial and principal trade between the US and your treaty country rather than for any other purpose.

Read more about the E1 visa here >>

 

5. Permanent US Work visas

 

Each year, around 140,000 immigrant visas are made available across five categories to non-US residents with skills deemed desirable to the US economy.

With an immigrant visa, you will have a permanent right to enter, live and work in the US.

Employment-based immigrant visas include:

 

a. First preference EB-1 – for those possessing extraordinary ability in science, art, education, business, athletics, academia and multinational executives and managers.

b. Second preference EB-2 – for members of the professions with advanced degrees or for those with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business, with a sponsor.

c. Third preference EB-3 – for professionals, skilled workers, and other workers satisfying prescribed job classifications with a sponsor.

d. Fourth preference EB-4 – for “special immigrants” such as religious workers, employees of US foreign service posts, retired employees of international organizations, alien minors who are wards of courts in the United States, and other classes of aliens.

e. Fifth preference EB-5 – business investors who invest $1 million, or $500,000, in a targeted employment area in a new commercial enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time US workers.

 

Section B: US Work Visa Eligibility Criteria

 

When applying for work visas in the USA, there are general eligibility criteria that apply across most categories, along with specific requirements unique to each visa type.

 

1. General Eligibility Criteria

 

The following criteria are applicable to temporary US work visas:

 

a. Offer of Employment: Applicants must have a valid job offer from a US employer to qualify for a work visa.

b.Employer Sponsorship: Most work visas require sponsorship by the US employer who files a petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of the applicant.

c. Nonimmigrant Intent: Applicants must demonstrate that they intend to leave the US upon the expiration or termination of the visa (except for visas that allow dual intent, such as the H-1B).

d. Educational and Professional Qualifications: Applicants must possess the necessary qualifications, including educational degrees and professional experiences, relevant to the job offer.

e. Compliance with Labor Laws: Employers must comply with all applicable US labor laws, including wage regulations.

 

2. Admissibility Requirements

 

In addition to evidencing your eligibility, you will also have to prove that you are admissible under US immigration rules. This means that irrespective of your skills and expertise, you will not be permitted to enter the US if you are deemed inadmissible. This may be by reason of health, criminal activity, national security, lack of labor certification, fraud and misrepresentation or prior removals among other categories.

Exceptions do, however, apply, and it may be possible to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility to overcome the grounds for entry refusal. Take advice on your circumstances to understand your options.

 

Section C: Specific Requirements for Each Type of Visa

 

For the primary work visas, the following criteria apply to the specific visa category. Applicants should ensure they meet both the general and specific requirements.

 

1. H-1B Visa

 

a. Education: Must have a bachelor’s or higher degree from an accredited university or college relevant to the specialty occupation.

b. Specialty Occupation: The job must qualify as a specialty occupation, generally requiring theoretical and practical application of highly specialized knowledge.

 

2. L-1 Visa

 

a. Previous Employment: Must have been employed by the same employer abroad continuously for 1 year within the 3 years preceding the application.

b. L-1A for Executives and Managers: Must be coming to the US to provide service in an executive or managerial capacity for the same employer or a subsidiary or affiliate.

c. L-1B for Workers with Specialized Knowledge: Must possess knowledge of the company’s products, services, research, equipment, techniques, management, or other interests.

 

3. O-1 Visa

 

a. Extraordinary Ability: Must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim and be recognized in the field through extensive documentation.

b. Continued Work in the Area of Extraordinary Ability: Must be entering the US to continue work in the area of expertise.

 

Section D: Work Visa Application Process

 

Applying for a US work visa from overseas involves a series of steps for both the applicant and the sponsoring employer.

The following is a guide to the general steps that will need to be followed,
although the order of these steps and how you complete them may vary depending on the US Embassy or Consulate where you are applying. You should consult the instructions available on the Embassy or Consulate website in question.

Some visa categories, such as the H1B visa, have additional procedural requirements. Take advice to ensure you are following the correct process for your application.

 

1. Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for a US Work Visa

 

Step 1: Employer Submits a Petition

The US employer starts the process by submitting a petition to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). For temporary work visas this is usually Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.

For some US work visa categories, as with L-1 visas, rather than filing an individual petition for each overseas worker, your employer may be eligible to file what’s known as a blanket petition using Form I-129S.
Where a blanket petition has already been filed, this will eliminate the need to file an individual petition on your behalf. Instead, so long as you have proof of the blanket approval by way of Forms I-129S and I-797, you can apply directly for a visa through consular processing.

The approval of a petition does not guarantee that you will be issued a visa.

 

Step 2: Labor Condition Application (LCA)

For certain visa categories like H-1B, the employer must also file a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor (DOL).

The Labor Certificate Application requires the employer to attest, amongst other things, that it will comply with the following labor requirements:

a. The employer will pay the beneficiary a wage which is no less than the wage paid to similarly qualified workers or, if greater, the prevailing wage for your position in the geographic area in which you will be working.

b. The employer will provide working conditions that will not adversely affect the working conditions of similarly employed US workers.

Your prospective employer should review the instructions for Form I-129 on the USCIS website to determine whether labor certification is required for you. Only once approval has been granted by the DOL can your employer petition to USCIS.

 

Step 3: Petition Approval

USCIS reviews the petition.

Once the petition is approved, USCIS will send your sponsor Form I-797, Notice of Action. Only once approval has been granted by USCIS can you apply to your local Embassy or Consulate for your visa.

 

Step 4: Visa Application at a US Embassy or Consulate

The next stage is to submit your visa application online using Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, to the Department of State and pay the appropriate non-refundable visa application fee.

You will also need to schedule your visa interview.

 

Step 5: Visa Interview

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

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.

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.

 

Step 6: Visa Issuance

If your visa is granted during your interview, it would usually take 5-7 working days for the visa to be updated and sent back to you by courier.

 

2. Adjusting Status from within the US

 

If you’re already in the US on a nonimmigrant status that doesn’t allow work, you might apply for a change of status to a classification that does or adjust your status to become a lawful permanent resident. This process might involve concurrent filing with an immigrant visa petition or may require an approved immigrant visa prior to adjustment application, depending on the situation.

Take advice on your specific circumstances to avoid potential breaches of your visa conditions or falling out of lawful status.

 

3. Supporting Documentation

 

You will be required to attend your consular interview with a number of documents. These include the following, although this list is not exhaustive:

 

a. Your current passport – this should be valid for travel to the United States for at least six months beyond your period of stay unless exempt by country-specific agreements.

b. Your nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160 confirmation page.

c. Your application fee payment receipt, which you are required to pay before your interview.

d. Recent photograph – although you will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160, you should bring a printed photo in the format explained in the photograph requirements in case the upload fails.

e. A receipt number for your approved petition as it appears on Form I-129 or Form I-797.

f. For blanket petition applicants, you must also bring Form I-129S.

 

In addition, all visa applicants, with the exception of those applying under L-1 and H-1B, will need to show their intent to depart the US once their status expires. This will require proof of binding ties to your home country, such as a residence abroad.

Additional documents may be required depending on the visa type and the Embassy or Consulate where you apply.

 

4. Processing Times

 

Processing times for a US work visa application will be determined by the type of visa you are applying for, although temporary nonimmigrant visas typically take a matter of weeks.

Visa processing times will be determined by a number of factors, including:

 

a. The type of visa you are applying for – petition-based employment visas will take longer to process than visitor visas.

b. The consular post where you are filing your petition – different petitioning processes apply at different consulate posts, and the caseload of the adjudicating officer will also dictate processing times.

c. The quality of your application – errors or omissions can result in delays, if not refusal.

d. Your personal circumstances – for example, your travel history and if you have a criminal record. If you are applying for a waiver of inadmissibility, you should expect your application to take around 6 – 8 months.

 

USCIS are reluctant to commit to processing lead times since each application is adjudicated on a case-by-case basis. As such, you are advised to work as much in advance of your intended travel plans as possible.

 

5. US Visa Fees

 

How much a US work visa application costs depends 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 $205 for petition-based nonimmigrant visas for temporary workers (H, L, O, P, Q, and R categories).

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

You may also opt to pay for expedited processing under the premium processing service. For an additional $2805, you can file Form I-907, Request for Premium Processing, to fast-track your H1B, L1 or O1 visa application processing.

 

Section E: After the Application

 

With your US work visa approved, there are a number of considerations to take into account:

 

1. A Visa Does Not Guarantee Entry into the US

 

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 the authority to permit or deny your admission to the United States.

As such, you should bring with you any documentation from your prospective employer as proof of your work plans to show to the officer upon arrival.

 

2. Extending a Work Visa

 

In most cases, it is possible to extend a nonimmigrant visa, in some instances indefinitely. The maximum period of stay will vary depending on the visa category 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.

 

3. Applying 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 nonimmigrant visas are only temporary, certain categories of nonimmigrant visas 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.

If you have a qualifying job or offer of employment, you may be eligible to move to the US on a permanent basis through an employment-based Green Card. For example, first preference (EB-1) is priority workers, including “foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers; or certain multinational managers and executives.”

We can advise on routes open to you for permanent residence in the US.

 

Section F: Common Pitfalls and Application Tips

 

Navigating the US work visa application process can be intricate, and success largely depends on thorough preparation and awareness of common pitfalls.

 

1. Common Pitfalls to Avoid During the Application Process

 

a. Inadequate Documentation: Failing to provide required documents or providing incomplete forms can lead to visa rejections.

b. Misrepresentation of Facts: Providing false information or fraudulent documents is a serious offense that can result in a permanent visa ban.

c. Not Following Sponsorship Protocols: Ensure that your employer follows all the legal requirements for sponsorship, including the labor certification requirements.

d. Neglecting Visa-Specific Requirements: Each visa category has unique requirements (e.g., L-1 visas require proof of employment at a foreign branch). Ignoring these details can lead to unsuccessful applications.

e. Ignoring Consular or USCIS Requests: Failure to respond promptly to requests for additional information or to attend mandatory appointments can result in the denial of your application.

 

2. Tips for Successful Visa Application

 

a. Start Early: Begin the application process well in advance of your intended travel date to accommodate any delays or requests for additional information.

b. Ensure Accuracy: Double-check all forms and supporting documents for accuracy. Inconsistencies or errors can lead to delays or denials.

c. Understand the Visa Type: Fully understand the requirements and conditions of the visa type you are applying for. Ensure that it aligns with your purpose of visit and professional background.

d. Complete Documentation: Provide complete and correct documentation as required for your specific visa type. Missing documents are a common reason for application delays or rejections.

e. Follow Legal Advice: Our US attorneys can provide specialist advice and support on any aspect of a US work visa application.

 

Section G: Choosing the Right US Work Visa

 

It is a general rule that any form of work – i.e. gainful employment – undertaken while physically present in the US, even for a foreign employer and even if any earnings are paid into a foreign bank account, will still be classed as work and will requireemployment authorization. Employment authorization for non-US nationals typically comes in the form of a work visa.

 

1. Can You Work in the US If You Travel Visa-Free?

 

If you are looking to travel to the US for the purposes of work, you will need to ensure you have permission under the relevant visa classification.

While the Visa Waiver Program may be the first consideration for short-term visits to the US, individuals travelling under the VWP are prohibited from undertaking gainful employment while in the US. Similarly, you cannot undertake paid employment if you have entered the US on a B visitor visa.

A work visa must be secured to be employed in the US.

‘Chancing it’ at the border is risky and something we would strongly advise against. If you are questioned by border officials about your planned activities while in the US, and it’s deemed that you do not hold the required permission, you will be refused entry into the US. This will be recorded and will impact your future US immigration applications.

If you are studying in the US on an F or M visa and you want to stay in the US to work after you finish your studies, you will need to consider your work visa options early to avoid your current visa expiring, as any new application will require time to put together, submitted and processed.

 

2. Which US Work Visa?

 

Under current immigration rules, a number of different US work visa types are available to non-US citizens looking to work in the USA. Each classification brings its own eligibility criteria, and application processes can also vary across different visas.

The type of work visa you will need will be dependent on a number of factors. These include:

 

a. Intended length of stay – there are both temporary and permanent visa routes.

b. Family members – not all visas allow spouses, partners or children to join the visa holder in the US.

c. Sponsorship – some work routes will require the visa holder to be sponsored by an employer as well as having a job lined up.

d. Salary level – a minimum salary level may apply.

e. Maximum period of stay – temporary visas will require you to leave the US before expiry unless the route permits extensions.

f. Path to Green Card – some routes will allow holders to become eligible for US permanent residence, while others do not and will require the visa holder to leave the US at the end of their period of leave.

g. Change of status – some routes will permit the holder to transfer from one visa category to another.

h. Application processing – processing times and costs vary between routes.

i. Visa caps – some routes are subject to limitations on the number of visas which can be issued within a year, which can impact chances of success if the route is oversubscribed.

 

Taking advice can help ensure you are considering all of the options.

 

Section H: Myths about US Work Visas

 

There are several myths surrounding work visas in the USA that can create confusion for potential applicants. Countering these myths helps potential applicants have realistic expectations and better prepare for the application process.

 

Myth 1: Any Job Qualifies for a Work Visa

Not all job offers in the USA qualify for a work visa. Most work visas, such as the H-1B, require the job to be in a specialty occupation that typically requires a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specific field of study. There are specific criteria that the job must meet, and the employer must prove that the position requires specialized knowledge.

 

Myth 2: Once You Get a Work Visa, You Can Work Indefinitely in the US.

Work visas are typically granted for a specific period and are subject to renewal procedures. For example, the H-1B visa is initially valid for three years and can be extended for up to six years total, barring certain exceptions that may allow for further extensions. It’s essential to comply with the expiration dates and renewal requirements.

 

Myth 3: You Can Easily Transfer from a Tourist Visa to a Work Visa

Switching from a tourist visa (B-2) to a work visa is generally not straightforward. Tourist visas are intended for visitors who are traveling to the US for leisure or non-business-related purposes and explicitly do not permit employment. To change status from a tourist visa to a work visa, one must meet specific criteria and follow the proper procedures, often requiring the individual to return to their home country to process the work visa.

 

Myth 4: Work Visas Are Guaranteed with a Job Offer

A job offer from a US employer does not automatically guarantee that a work visa will be issued. The employer must first file a petition on behalf of the prospective employee, which must be approved by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Subsequently, the applicant must apply for the visa, which involves a separate approval process, including interviews and background checks.

 

Myth 5: Getting a Work Visa Is Purely Based on Luck

While certain visas, such as the H-1B, involve a lottery system due to the high demand and cap on the number of visas issued each year, the process is not solely based on luck. Eligibility, the completeness and correctness of the application, and the candidate’s qualifications also play critical roles. Strategic planning, proper timing, and meeting all requirements are crucial.

 

Myth 6: Once on a Work Visa, You Can Work for Any Employer in the US.

Work visas are generally employer-specific. If you are in the US on a work visa like the H-1B and wish to change employers, the new employer must file a new petition on your behalf. This is known as an H-1B transfer, and it must be approved before you can start working for the new employer.

 

Section I: Summary

 

Given the range of US work visas and various eligibility requirements, the choice of visa will depend on your situation and the type of activity you intend to carry out.

Even if pre-conditions have been met, you must go above and beyond providing basic evidence in order to gain visa approval, as the standards are extremely high among US immigration authorities.

Also, bear in mind that visa fees and US immigration policies do change, sometimes with little notice.

Taking advice from an experienced US immigration attorney will help ensure you make the correct selection.

 

Section J: Need Advice About A US Work Visa?

 

NNU Immigration are specialists in US immigration, helping non-US nationals make successful US work visa applications.

Through our extensive track record in supporting employers and workers with work visa applications, we offer tailored advice based on your unique circumstances, aiming to minimize errors in paperwork and document submission.

Our strategic approach to planning considers your long-term immigration goals, including potential permanent residency or citizenship. In handling complex cases, such as those involving past immigration violations or criminal records, our expertise proves invaluable.

Should queries or disputes arise, we provide representation in dealings with USCIS, offering advocacy and support throughout the process.

Contact us for expert guidance on securing the permission you need to work in the USA.

 

Section K: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About US Work Visas

 

Explore our detailed guide on getting a work visa for the USA. Learn about types, requirements, and application tips for 2024.

The most common types include the H-1B for specialty occupations, L-1 for intra-company transferees, O-1 for individuals with extraordinary abilities, E-3 for Australians in specialty occupations, and TN for Canadians and Mexicans under the USMCA.

 

How do I apply for a US work visa?

The process typically starts with a US employer who must file a petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once approved, you can apply at a US embassy or consulate in your home country. This includes submitting a visa application form (DS-160), attending an interview, and providing necessary documentation.

 

How long does it take to process a work visa application?

Processing times can vary greatly depending on the visa type and the workload of the USCIS and the consulate processing the visa. It can range from a few weeks to several months. Applicants can check current processing times on the USCIS website.

 

Can I bring my family with me on a work visa?

Most US work visas allow you to bring dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21) on derivative visas. For example, dependents of H-1B visa holders can apply for H-4 visas.

 

What happens if I lose my job while on a work visa?

If you lose your job, your work visa typically becomes invalid, and you might need to find another employer to sponsor a new visa or change your status. The specific conditions can vary, so it’s important to speak with an immigration attorney immediately in such situations.

 

Can I apply for permanent residency while on a work visa?

Some work visas, like the H-1B, are dual intent visas, which means you can apply for permanent residency (green card) while on the visa. However, the process and eligibility can depend on various factors, including your employment situation and country of origin.

 

Are there any caps or limits on work visas?

Some visas, like the H-1B, have annual numerical limits. For the H-1B visa, the cap is set at 85,000 visas each fiscal year, which includes 65,000 visas under the regular cap and an additional 20,000 visas for applicants with a US master’s degree or higher.

 

What are the fees associated with applying for a US work visa?

Fees vary by visa type and include application fees, issuance fees (based on reciprocity), and potentially a premium processing fee if you opt for faster processing of your petition.

 

Can I travel outside the US while on a work visa?

Yes, you can travel outside the US while on a work visa, but you must have a valid visa to return to the US. Check the visa stamp on your passport for validity dates. Additionally, some visas may require a re-entry permit or advance parole.

 

How can I check the status of my visa application?

You can check the status of your visa application online with myUSCIS using the receipt number provided to you after your employer filed the petition.

 

How Can I Get Work Visa In USA?

The requirements depend on the type of work visa you apply for. The primary route for skilled foreign workers is the H1B visa, which requires you to have a US sponsor/employer and a job offer in a ‘specialty occupation’ role. This route is, however, typically oversubscribed and selection is managed through an annual selection process using a lottery system.

 

Do I need to be sponsored to work in the US?

Certain categories of US worker visa will require you to be sponsored by a qualifying employer, such as the H-1B and L-1 visas.

 

Which US visa allows you to work?

The US offers many work visa routes, catering for different types of workers and skill sets, although there is no general or unskilled work permit. The L1 visa, for example, is for employees of overseas companies who are transferring to a US branch or subsidiary, while the H1B visa is for highly skilled workers with a US sponsor/employer. Take advice on your circumstances to understand your visa options.

 

Can UK citizens work in the US?

UK citizens can work in the US provided they have authorization, either through their visa or by obtaining a Green Card.

 

Is it difficult to get a work visa for the USA?

The prospects of obtaining a US work visa depend in large part on your skills, the type of work you intend to do and the type of visa you are applying for. The H1B visa, for example, is competitive since it is typically oversubscribed each year, while Blanket L1 applications tend to have a high success rate since the employer has pre-approval for intracompany transfers.

 

Section L: Additional Resources

 

US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
https://www.uscis.gov/
The official USCIS website provides comprehensive information on all types of visas, including work visas. It offers detailed guides, forms, and updates on visa policies and procedures.

 

Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs
https://www.state.gov/bureaus-offices/under-secretary-for-management/bureau-of-consular-affairs/
The Bureau of Consular Affairs website offers information on visa application processes, requirements, and embassy/consulate locations worldwide. It also provides visa bulletins and updates on visa processing times.

 

American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
https://www.aila.org/
AILA is a professional organization for immigration attorneys in the United States. Their website offers resources, news, and articles on immigration law and visa-related topics.

 

National Immigration Law Center (NILC)
https://www.nilc.org/
NILC is dedicated to defending and advancing the rights of low-income immigrants in the United States. Their website provides resources, advocacy materials, and legal updates on immigration law.

 

Immigration Advocates Network (IAN)
https://www.immigrationadvocates.org/
IAN is a network of nonprofit immigration advocacy organizations and legal service providers. Their website offers a directory of legal services, resources, and training materials for immigrants and advocates.

 

 

Author

Founder & Principal Attorney Nita Nicole Upadhye is a recognized leader in the field of US business immigration law (AILA) and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with both US and UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

Nita successfully acts for corporations and professionals, entrepreneurs, artists, actors, and athletes from across the globe, providing expert guidance on all aspects of US visa and nationality applications, and talent mobility to the USA.

Nita is an active public speaker, thought leader, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

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