For foreign professionals who wish to come to the U.S. temporarily through employment, a work visa may be the best option. Because there are many different kinds of occupations that could stimulate and benefit the U.S. culture and economy, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has developed a variety of different visa classifications to suit these needs.
Work Visa Types
Below you will find a list of some of the more popular work visas available to foreign citizens. Please keep in mind that this is not a comprehensive list. If your qualifications do not match a visa on this list, consult with your immigration attorney to find out if a different option would be more appropriate for your situation.
The L visa classification is designed for managers, executives, and employees with specialized knowledge to transfer from a company branch or office on foreign soil to one in the U.S.
This visa has particular restrictions that require an employer to prove that the foreign and U.S. branches are affiliated, that the employee is qualified for the position through previous similar employment, and that the U.S. location is capable of doing business.
The letters in this work visa stand for Treaty NAFTA, which is an agreement made between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico in order to facilitate trade and commerce.
So if you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen who wishes to work in the U.S. for one of the 63 approved occupations, then you may be qualified for this relatively inexpensive and easily obtainable work visa.
The H classification of visa, particularly the H-1B visa, is the most popular of the work visas due to its flexibility, wide range of possible occupations, and the fact that the very basic requirements are a job offer for a specialty position and a bachelor’s degree that is relevant to the position.
Because of its popularity, the USCIS has instituted a maximum number of H-1B visas that can be issued annually. It does this by randomly selecting that number out of the pool of submitted petitions in a lottery.
The J-1 visa, or exchange visitors visa, is designed for students and professionals that agree to participate in a program that allows them to teach, study, train, or research in the U.S.
This visa is usually extended to professors, students, counselors, and researchers, but it is not limited to this list. It is important to note that you may or may not be required to work in order to apply. Your sponsoring agency should have all relevant information about your program.
This visa classification is reserved only for workers that can demonstrate “extraordinary ability” in certain fields such as science, business, art, television, and athletics. Prospective O-1 visa holders have an extensive list of possible evidence that can be submitted to prove this extraordinary ability.
If you have an international award, substantial salary, published work, or other proof of your distinction in your field, then the O-1 visa may be for you.
The E classification is a trade and investor visa that is offered to citizens of nations with which the U.S. has a treaty of commerce and navigation. This visa allows foreign traders and investors to enter the U.S. to practice their trade or develop their investment.
The R visa is available to workers who are interested in coming to the U.S. as a minister or similar position in a religious organization. This is usually based on what the exact duties of the position are, what denomination the religion is affiliated with, and whether or not the organization is non-profit.
The P visa classification is for internationally acclaimed athletes, entertainers, as well as cultural teachers and performers. The criteria for the visas in this classification are relatively few and the period of stay is longer than many other work visas.
Labor Certification Application
Many of the above visa classifications require a job offer from a sponsoring employer that will be filing a petition with the USCIS on the individual’s behalf. That employer will most likely require a Labor Certification Application (LCA) in order to hire a foreign worker.
The LCA was designed by the Department of Labor (DOL) to make sure that employers were not depriving qualified U.S. citizens of jobs and outsourcing to foreign labor. Through the LCA process, an employer will need to conduct a thorough search for native workers and may be subject to a random or targeted audit for further inspection.
Certain visa classifications, such as the O-1 visa, do not require a job offer and so do not require an LCA. These applicants can usually petition on their own behalf. Work with your work visa lawyer to determine which category is most appropriate for you.
Dual intent is a term that the USCIS uses to describe certain visa classifications (such as the H-1B visa) that allow the holder to pursue lawful permanent residency in the U.S. while under their work visa status.
If you have a visa that does not allow dual intent (such as the TN visa), then applying for a green card may jeopardize your status as well as future attempts to enter the U.S. Your work visa attorney can help you decide on the best course of action if obtaining your green card is your ultimate goal.
Work Visa Cost
Because each visa classification requires different sets of forms, no two work visa costs are alike. It is best to ask your immigration lawyer or refer to the USCIS’s list of forms and fees for more information.
How Our Work Visa Lawyers Can Help
This is only a partial list of all the potential visas that are available to foreign citizens who wish to enter the U.S. either temporarily or permanently. While some applicants may only qualify for one classification, many qualify for several. In order to know which one would best suit your needs, finances, and end goal, you need an immigration attorney.
At SGM Law Group, our work visa lawyers have a long track record of successfully matching individuals with the optimal path to the U.S. by carefully analyzing each person’s qualifications as well as the current immigration regulations put in place.