A majority of US non immigrant visas are issued to enable a foreign national to work in the USA. You are not permitted to work or study in the US if you are visiting the US on an ordinary US tourist non immigrant visa (B2) or a business visa (B1).
The H1B Visa
The US H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows a US company to employ a foreign national who is engaged in a ‘specialty occupation’ for a period up to six years. A foreign national cannot individually apply for this visa but has to be sponsored by the US Company who will submit a petition on the individual’s behalf to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security. This classification requires a labor attestation which is issued by the Secretary of Labor.
A specialty occupation is defined as one that requires a high degree of specialized knowledge. An individual who is to be sponsored for this visa is expected to have the equivalent of a job-relevant, 4-year US Bachelor’s degree. If the candidate does not have this qualification it can be met by having a 3 year degree and 3 year’s relevant post graduate experience.
For professionals like doctors and lawyers aside from this requirement they also need to be licensed to practice in the US state where they intend to practice. A non graduate can be petitioned for a H1B visa only if the individual has twelve or more year’s experience in the profession.
US employers who wish to employ foreign nationals on the H1B program are required to advertise the positions in the USA before they turn to foreign nationals to fill these positions. Moreover these visas are subject to annual quotas and H1B dependent firms are described as those firms which have 15% of their employees in the H1B status. New regulations require the US companies who employ H1B workers to pay fees in addition to filing fees when they submit new visa petitions or extend the visas of H1B workers. These funds are used towards a training program for US workers.
H1B visas are initially issued for three years and then can be extended for another three years. Spouses and dependants (who are under the age of 21) of the H1B visa holders are issued H4 visas and they can accompany the H1B visa holder to the US but they are not allowed to work. If they want to work they need to be sponsored by a US company in their own capacity. However, H4 Visa holders can enroll in a course of study.
L1 Intra-Company Transfer Visas
The L visas are used to transfer employees from foreign locations to a US parent office, affiliate, subsidiary or branch office of a company. These visas are of two types, the L1A visa which is used for executive and managerial staff and the L1B visa which is used for specialist knowledge staff.
This visa has certain conditions attached to it and before the company can petition for the visa. The company has to ensure that the employee has been working for the subsidiary of the company outside the US for at least a year within the last three years. If the candidate is transferring under the managerial criteria then the individual should be transferring to the US office to manage a major division or to fulfill a key position in the US office. If the candidate is transferring under the specialized worker criteria, the candidate should have in-depth experience of the employer’s particular, products, processes, procedures and practices.
L1 visas are initially issued for 1 to 3 years and can be extended. Spouses and dependents of L1 visa holders are admitted in the US as L2 visa holders and they can work after they have received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or work permit. L1 visas allow multiple entries like many other US non immigrant visas. Both the L1 Visa and the H1B visa can lead to permanent residency status for a foreign national in the USA.
E-3 Visa for Australians
This visa was instituted by the US in 2005 for Australians only. This visa allows Australian citizens to relocate and work in the US in a specialty occupation. This visa is also issued for their spouses and children. A specialty occupation is classified as one that requires a body of knowledge in a professional field and the visa holder must at least have a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in order to gain entry into that occupation in the US. You have to find a job with a United States employer who will then sponsor you for your visa. Your spouse doesn’t need to be working in a specialized occupation. After your visa petition has been approved by the USCIS then you have to apply for your E-3 visa at the appropriated consulate or embassy in Australia. This E-3 visa is a multiple entry visa.
Documents required for the issuance of an E-3 visa.
A filled and signed Non-immigrant Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor Application form, Form DS-156E.
A Supplemental Non immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-157 is also required to be filed by all male applicants who are between 16-45 years of age. This form provides information about your travel plans. However if you are a citizen of a state which is designated as a sponsor of terrorism you have to file this form no matter what gender or age you are. Currently Cuba, Syria, Sudan and Iran are designated as states that sponsor terrorism.
A valid passport for travel to the United States, your passport should have a validity date of at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the US. If your children are traveling on your passport individual visa applications have to be made for them as well.
Applicants are often asked to show proof of binding ties to their place of residence which they have no intention of relinquishing as they try to get a visa to enter the USA. The kind of proof required differs greatly in each individual circumstance.
One (1) 2×2 photograph the specifications of which are listed on the USCIS website
The appropriate non immigrant visa application processing fee and the appropriate visa issuance fee. The details of all the current fees are also available at the State Department’s website under the visas section.
Other US Work Visas
There are various other H visas which are issued by the US for various other categories of workers. These include:
H-1C visas which are issued for foreign nurses who come to the US to provide nursing services in medically underserved areas. These visas are issued for a temporary period of up to three years.
H-2A visas are issued to temporary or seasonal agricultural works while the H-2B classification is used to petition for foreign works who are needed on a seasonal basis or are needed for a peak load or intermittent need or a onetime occurrence. This category is governed by stringent rules as the US Company has to first prove that there are no unemployed US workers who are willing or able to do that job. For this the company has to advertise in the local papers and only if no local workers can be found can the company then file a petition for a foreign worker. An H-2B visa holder is allowed to bring his/her spouse and children (unmarried and under the age of 21) as H-4 dependents but they are not allowed to work in the US.
H3 visas are issued to trainees who are neither medical trainees nor academic trainees.
O-1 visas are issued to those foreign nationals who display extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business and athletics. It is also issued to people who work in the film and television industries. An O-2 visa is issued to those foreign nationals who accompany the O-1 visa holder and are thus needed for the effective carrying of a specific artistic or athletic performance.
P-1 visas are issued to an individual or a team of athletes or members of an entertainment group who are well known the world over. These visas are capped at 25000 per year.
P-2 visas are issued for those artists or entertainers who are invited to perform in the US under a reciprocal exchange program.
P-3 visas are issued to artists and entertainers who perform in a program in the US which is culturally unique.
Q-1 visas are issued to individuals who are participating in a cultural exchange program in the US
Necessary Documentation for a Temporary Work Visa
- If a foreign national wishes to enter the US to live and work temporarily under all these above mentioned visa categories, the applicant’s future employer has first to file a form I-129 which is a petition for a non-immigrant worker with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (http://www.uscis.gov/). The prospective employer should file this petition as soon as possible but no more than 6 months in advance of the start date of the employment period.
- This I-129 needs to be approved by the USCIS before the prospective employee can apply for a visa at the appropriate US consulate or embassy abroad. Initially the prospective employer used to wait for the Notice of Action Form called I-797 which indicated a date for the applicant’s interview date but this is now managed by the Petition Information System which is an online system of the Department of State that now generates the interview date. The approval of the petition does not assure the issuance of a visa if a candidate is found to be ineligible under US immigration laws.
Visa Application Process
It is advisable that the applicant should make his/her application for a non immigrant temporary work at the Embassy or Consulate which is located within the jurisdiction over his/her place of permanent residence. Visa applicants can apply for these visas abroad though it may be quite difficult to qualify for the visa outside their place of residence.
An interview with the embassy consular staff is a requirement of these visa applications and all candidates aged 14 to 79 are required to be interviewed for these above mentioned non immigrant visas.
The wait time for the interview varies from country to country and applicants are encouraged to apply for their visas as soon as they received their approved Form I-129 petition. Information about wait times at each consulate or embassy located worldwide is posted on the state department’s website (http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html).
- A completed and signed DS-156 Non immigrant Visa application form. The current DS-156 form which is in use bears the date of March 2006 and is the electronic “e-form application.” However this form is being slowly replaced by the new DS-160 Online Non immigrant Visa Electronic Application which is already in use at certain consulates and embassies.
- A Supplemental Non immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-157 is also required to be filed by all male applicants who are between 16-45 years of age. This form provides information about your travel plans. However if you are a citizen of a state which is designated as a sponsor of terrorism you have to file this form no matter what gender or age you are. Currently Cuba, Syria, Sudan and Iran are designated as states that sponsor terrorism.
- A valid passport for travel to the United States, your passport should have a validity date of at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the US. If your children are traveling on your passport individual visa applications have to be made for them as well.
- Applicants are often asked to show proof of binding ties to their place of residence which they have no intention of relinquishing as they try to get a visa to enter the USA. The kind of proof required differs greatly in each individual circumstance.
- One (1) 2×2 photograph, the specifications of which are listed on the USCIS website
The appropriate non immigrant visa application processing fee and the appropriate visa issuance fee. The details of all the current fees are also available at State departments website under the visas section.
E Visas – Treaty Trader or Treaty Investor Visas
These visas are issued to employees of companies that are registered at Treaty Traders or Treaty Investors. These companies usually have substantial trade with the U.S. or are making substantial capital investments in the USA. In order to receive an E1 (trade) or E2 (Investor) visa you have to be of the same nationality as the Treaty Registered Employer (you are a UK national going to work in a UK company in the USA), you have to be experienced as a manager or an executive are going to the US in the same capacity or you must have specialized skills which are essential for the functioning of the organization in the US.
These visas have multiple entries and are essentially issued for two years but they can be renewed indefinitely. E1 and E2 visas are also issued for immediate family members of the visa holder. The dependents of the visa holders are allowed to work in the USA. The US based company has to first file the petition with the USCIS before the foreign national can apply for his/her E visa at the appropriate consulate or embassy in his/her home country.
Your company will handle the process of obtaining an E Visa for you if you are eligible.