The United States of America, a land of opportunities, has around 123.6 million fully employed workers (as of May 2016) out of which 17% are foreign-born workers that have migrated to USA to find work and advance their career. One can’t just simply sail to this country and start searching for employment. There are some rules, regulations and requirements that must be fulfilled.
In order to be able to work full-time in the United States of America, all foreign nationals are required to obtain a work-visa or a work permit.
What is a Work Visa and How Do I Get One?
A work visa or work permit is simply a stamp on your passport or a document that permits a citizen of a foreign country to work in the US.
There are myriad factors that play a role and affect an applicant’s work permit application. The two main factors that play a leading role in the visa application process are (i) the nationality of the applicant and (ii) the nature of job and the industry an applicant intends to work in.
There are four main ways through which an individual can obtain a work visa in the USA:
- Sponsorship by a US Employer
If you are crème de la crème of your country then corporations in the US are looking for you to work for them. Every year thousands of brilliant minds leave their home countries to work in the USA because of the resources that this land offers them. If you are able to secure a job with a corporation based in the US, then you will be able to obtain a work visa in the USA through sponsorship by a US employer.
- Sponsorship by a close US family member
If a member of your family happens to hold US nationality, then he/she can also sponsor you. In this way you will be eligible to work or to look for work in the United States while living on the US soil.
- Diversity Visa Lottery Program
There are some countries that have a historically low rate of immigration to the United States. In order to encourage them into this country, ‘Diversity Visa Lottery Program’ is introduced by section 203(c) of Immigration and Nationality Act. Under this program, every fiscal year, a limited numbers of nationals of the selected countries can obtain a work visa in the USA. Click here to know more about diversity visas and the countries eligible to participate in this diversity visa lottery program.
- Investing a Significant Amount of Money in the USA
The fourth way to obtain a work visa in the USA is by bringing your money for investment into a new business venture in the United States or by investing a significant amount of money in any existing US company. Either way, the local US economy must benefit directly from your investment in order to be eligible to obtain a work visa in the USA.
Types of US Work Visas
There are numerous types of US work visas, but here we have highlighted only those types of visas that are most commonly obtained by applicants to enter and work on the US soil.
- Type H-1B Visa
- Type P-1 Visa
- Type J-1 Visa
- Type O-1 Visa
- Type L1 Visa
- Type TN Visa
- Type E-3 Visa
A brief description of each type of work visa is provided below.
- Type H-1B Specialty Worker Visa
This is the most popular type of visa in the United States of America. Companies in the USA want to hire the top minds in any particular professional field from around the world. These professionals are the ones that seek to obtain a type H-1B work visa in the USA. Every fiscal year 65,000 workers can enter US on a type H-1B work visa. Out of this, 5,400 H-1B visas are reserved for Singaporeans while 1,400 H-1B visas are reserved for Chileans.
If you are a professional, looking to obtain a Type H-1B work visa in the USA then you will be required to submit the following documents in the US Consulate /US Embassy of your home country:
- A bachelors degree or higher
- Previous work reference
- Job offer from a US sponsor company
- Your current CV
- Professional license (if any)
This H-1B visa is granted to the applicant for 3 years and can be renewed for 3 more years after expiration. After this, the individual will be required (by law) to depart from the US territory. Apart from this there are five requirements that every applicant needs to fulfill in order to be eligible for a type H-1B visa.
Requirement 1 – The applicant must have an employer employee relationship with a US employer
Requirement 2 – Your job with the US employer must be a specialty occupation (i.e. the nature of duties must be specialized and complex)
Requirement 3 – Your job with the US employer must be related to the specialized field that you have studied.
Requirement 4 – Your US employer must pay you the prevailing or the actual salary of your occupation.
Requirement 5 – At the time of filing of the petition, an H-1B visa number must be available.
Click here for more information about the H-1B visa.
- Type P-1 Visa for Athletes and Entertainers
This type of visa is granted only to athletes and entertainers (both of whom must be internationally recognized) who want to enter the US jurisdiction to participate in an event, tournament, project or sports season. The term ‘International Recognition’ is defined by USCIS as ‘high level of skill or achievement that is not encountered ordinarily, and that the skill or achievement is distinguished and famous in more than one country’.
In order to obtain a P-1 work visa in the USA, an athlete or a sports team will have to provide copies of evidence for at least two of the following:
- Proof of participation in international competitions
- A proof that an athlete or team has received awards and honors in a given sport
- A proof that the athlete or a team is ranked by international sports ranking agencies
- Proof of significant participation in US intercollegiate competitions
- Proof of significant participation in the previous seasons of major sports league within the United States
Spouse and unmarried children of a P-1 visa holder can also accompany him/her to the US by obtaining a P-4 status. They are also eligible to attend academic institutions for educational purposes; however, the dependents of P-1 visa holders are not eligible to accept employment within US while on a P-4 status. The total stay of athletes in US on P-1 visa is limited to 10 years. Athletes that are unable to provide the above documents or proofs can apply for H-2B visa in order to arrive in US and be able to participate in a sports event.
- Type J-1 Visa for International Exchange
Type J-1 visa are for individuals who want to come to US under the exchange visitor program. Every year around 300,000 individuals from 200 countries arrive into this land of opportunities on J-1 Visa. In order to apply for J-1 visa, the applicant first has to obtain a DS-2019 form.
What is DS-2019?
DS-2019 is a document that identifies the applicant and his/her sponsor and provides a brief description of the activities that would be undertaken by the applicant after arriving in the US. This document also clearly states the category of the program as well as the beginning and end dates of the program. This form also provide the details of the financial support provided to the participant during his/her stay in the United States.
Why is it important?
DS-2019 is needed by a prospective exchange visitor to be considered for an interview at the US consulate or US embassy. After the interview is cleared, the prospective exchange visitor will then be eligible to obtain a J-1 visa.
Other than DS-2019 what other documents do I need?
Although DS-2019 is the most important document in order to be considered for J-1 visa but it is not the only document required. Other documents that need to be submitted to obtain J-1 visa are:
- Form DS-160 to be completed and submitted online
- Passport valid for travel to the United States
- A fee receipt proving that the visa application fee has been paid by the prospective exchange visitor
- Type O-1 Visa for Extraordinary Individuals
Do you consider yourself as a super-duper ultra-über geek, nerd or an individual who possess extraordinary ability? No, we don’t mean a mutant. By extraordinary ability we mean that you have extraordinary ability in education, sciences, business, arts or athletics, or have a record of accomplishments in television industry and are recognized nationally as well as internationally for your abilities.
If you are interested in obtaining a Type O-1 Work Visa in the USA then following documents will be required by the US Consulate to process your O-1 visa application.
- A job offer letter stating the tenure for which you will be working for the US based employer.
- Documents showing the extraordinary ability in the aforementioned subject areas.
The dependants and spouse of O-1 visa holder are eligible for O-3 status, under which they can live and attend academic institutions in the US but they cannot accept employment in the US. Type O-1 visas are offered relatively quicker than the other types of visas discussed in this article. The O-1 visa holder can stay in US for up to 3 years; however, they can extend their stay in increments of 1 year.
In order to obtain an O-1 work visa in the USA, the applicant must file I-129 form with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services at least 45 days before the date of employment. The petition for O-1 visa will be rejected by the US authorities if the applicant submits it but the employment commences after more than 365 days. Click here to download I-129 form.
- Type L-1 Intra Company Transfer Visa
Type L-1 visa is offered to the managers, executives and workers with specialized knowledge who are working in a foreign business entity for one continuous year within the past 3 years. This visa is also offered to businessmen who have business/es in other country or countries but are looking to open an office in the US.
In order to be qualified to obtain a type L-1 work visa in the USA, following four requirements must be met:
Requirement 1: The businessperson / executive has secured a sufficient physical space within US for a new office of his company.
Requirement 2: The petitioning US company must have a relationship with your established company abroad.
Requirement 3: The new office of the company must start its operations within one year after the businessperson/ manager/ executive has entered US on L-1 visa.
Requirement 4: After one year, the office of the company must have all the managerial and executive staff. This requirement has to be met if, and only if, the L-1 visa holder is requesting for an extension of stay in the US.
Contrary to the H-1B visa, L-1 visa does not have any quota and as many people can enter th eUS on this type of visa. Also, the L-1 visa applicant does not have to submit any educational documents in order to obtain a work visa in the USA.
The businessperson or the manager who is entering the US soil to establish a company’s office can stay in the US for up to one year. Extension in visa can be sought for up to seven years after which the visa holder will be required to leave the country.
- Type TN Visa for Specialty Worker under NAFTA
If you are Canadian or Mexican and are looking to obtain a work visa in the USA then type TN visa is your key to entering this land of opportunities. This type of visa is only available to the specialty worker who has a Mexican or Canadian nationality. The visa offered is based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signed by the three countries. In order to be eligible for a TN visa you must submit the following documents with the US Consulate or US Embassy of your home country:
- A hard copy of your bachelors degree or higher
- A job offer letter from your US based employer
- A detailed CV of the visa seeker
- An application that is completed in all aspects and an I-94 card
- Visa application fee
The TN visa is offered for three years after which it can be renewed unlimited times. However, your application will be discarded if you show any signs of immigrating to the USA.
Just like the L-1 visas, TN visas also do not have any quota and is available to anybody who qualifies the requirements of TN visa.
- Type E-3 Specialist Worker Visa for Australians
Type E-3 visa is similar to the H-1B visa. This type of visa is only for Australians who are looking forward to obtain a work visa in the USA. An E-3 visa holder may work in the US for an indefinite amount of time. Also, the spouse of E-3 visa holder is eligible to work in the States. The visa process of type E-3 visa is much quicker, just like in the case of O-3 visa.
When Should You Apply For a Work Visa?
The US Embassy or Consulate takes up to 90 days to process your visa application so you should submit your application to obtain a work visa in the USA 90 days prior to the commencement of your employment in the US.
How to Apply?
The first and the foremost step in obtaining a work visa in the USA is to submit I-129 form in the US Embassy or Consulate and wait for their approval. Form I-129 will be approved by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). After this you will be eligible to apply for and obtain a work visa in the USA. Below are some steps that you will follow after the approval of I-129 form.
Complete the form DS-160 and submit it online
DS-160 is an online non-immigrant visa application that needs to be completed and submitted online. You must also print this application/form and bring it along with you to the interview.
Schedule an interview
Interview of the applicants that are seeking to obtain a work visa in the USA are held in the US Consulate or US Embassy of the country where an applicant lives. In order to schedule an interview you have to submit the receipt number that is printed on your approved I-129 form. Children under 13 years of age and people of the age 80 or above are not required to appear for an interview.
Pay the Visa Application fee
Visa application fee of $190 is to be paid before the interview of the applicant is conducted. After your visa is issued you will then also be required to pay visa issuance fee (it depends upon your nationality).
Additional Documents required
Visa applicants will most often be required to provide documents that prove compelling ties of visa seeker to one’s home country. These documents are required to demonstrate your intention to return to your home country after a temporary stay in the US. Compelling ties can be proved by revealing:
- Your residence in home country that you do not have any intention to sell
- Your long term plans
- Your economic condition (usually proved by a bank statement)
- Your family relationships within home country
All this information is compiled in this article to give a general understanding to anyone who is looking to obtain a work visa in the USA. If you need any further assistance you may call us at 407-344-1012 and request a meeting with our qualified immigration professional who are willing to guide you through the intricacies and complexities involved in the process of obtaining a work visa in the USA. You can also email us at [email protected].