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US Work Visa

U.S. Work Visas Options or How to Get a Work Visa In the USA

the United States is seen by many as their dreamland, a place where hopes can come true. Many have the same question: how can they move to the US and have a job here? How to get a US Work Visa? To start with, in the US a person is authorized to work if he/she has a status allowing engaging in employment such as a green card, asylum or refugee status, H1b, O, P or E, R, etc. or if a person receives an employment authorization in connection for example with an application for asylum, adjustment of status, as a dependent of H1B, E or L status holder, etc.

The U.S. Work Visa Types and Requirements

The truth is that the work visa options in the U.S. are limited. One has to meet specific qualifications before he/she can come to work in the US. At the law office of Alena Shautsova, NYC Immigration firm, we help clients to evaluate their credentials and determine which visa may be suitable for them. For most work-related visas, a person would need to have a job offer and an employer. Most visas are job-specific: it means that they are valid as long as the person works for that particular employer. All work-related visas in the U.S. are divided into Immigrant and Non-Immigrant visas. To learn more about the Immigrant visas, please visit here.

Below is a general overview of non-immigrant work visas/status in the United States.

Overview of H1B Visa and Status

The most common type of a work visa in the United States is an H1B visa: this visa is reserved for professionals for whom the employer has obtained an approved labor condition application from the Department of Labor (DOL). It is suitable for those who can be employed in positions that qualify as a “profession” and/or specialty occupation. By the way, this visa category is often used by fashion models who have “distinguishing merit or ability.” The main qualification for job seekers here would be education and/or experience. There is an education requirement of a U.S. Bachelor’s degree or higher degree or its foreign equivalent; and at times, a person has to hold an unrestricted state license or “education, specialized training, and/or progressively responsible experience that is equivalent to completion of a US Bachelor’s degree or higher degree in the specialty occupation, and have recognition in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty.” 8CFR214.2(h)(4)(iii)(C ).

Work experience equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree in a three to one ratio of years of experience to education can be accepted for qualification as well if a person may establish that training and/or work experience included the theoretical and practical application of specialized knowledge; experience was gained while working with peers, supervisors or subordinates who have a degree or its equivalent in the specialty occupation; and the applicant has the recognition of expertise in the specialty.

The drawbacks of this work visa category are numerical quotas: only 65,000 visas are available each year for those holding Bachelor’s’ degrees and equivalents, and for those with Master’s degrees or higher there are additional 20,000. There are H1B cap-exempt specialties that would not count towards these limits. Extension of H1B status and dependents would also now count here. Nevertheless, every year this visa category is “oversubscribed” requiring a “lottery” where the applicant would not know if his/her application would even be considered in the first place. In addition, for cap-subject categories, there are rigid time frames for application and start dates that should be taken into consideration when planning one’s future in the US.

Finally, H1B status may be given for a maximum of 6 years. Extensions beyond 6 years are allowed in certain situations where an employer is in the process of sponsoring a person for a green card. Also, a recapture of the time spent overseas is allowed as well.

The biggest disadvantage of the H1B program is that it is subject to numerous, at times confusing and conflicting regulations and practices, and an applicant may find him/herself in a battle with USCIS over trivial things which ill affect his/her status in the US for years.

Once an H1B status is obtained, the beneficiary may work only for the employer which petitioned for him/her. It is possible to change the H1B employer or “transfer” even though this “transfer” will require a new petition to be submitted and ultimately approved.

When an H1B holder gets terminated from his/her job, he/she has 60 days to find a new employer who would submit a new petition on his/her behalf. Please note that one does not have to be in H1B status prior to being sponsored for an immigrant visa or a green card. A self-employed individual on an H1B visa may ask an agent to file a petition on his/her behalf. 8 CFR 214.2(h)(2)(i)(F).

E -3 Visa and Status

E-3 visa and status are like H1B but for citizens of Australia. However, unlike H1B, E-3 may be valid for two years initially and may be extended indefinitely. Dependents of E-3 are eligible for employment authorization. It is possible to work part-time on E3, but a person would have to show that he/she has enough US income and/or possess enough assets to support him/herself and not become a public charge. Labor condition application is required here as well.

R work visas for religious occupations

For detailed explanations regarding R visas please read.

TN Visas and Status

For Canadians and Mexicans, there are separate, special visas/status reserved if they will perform in the US professional assignments. For Canadian citizens, it is possible to request TN status right at the border or to apply for it at a US consulate. Citizens of Mexico should apply for it at a consulate. The occupations suitable for this visa/status are specified by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A TN petition/admission may be valid for up to three years. The TN classification may be used for a part-time position. Examples of positions suitable for TN classifications are accountant, economist, social worker, lawyer, interior designer, hotel manager, pharmacist, university teacher, etc. Self-employment is not allowed. There is no maximum time limit to hold TN classification, unlike H1B, L, or E.

The US government officials will scrutinize the TN applications to make sure that they are not used instead of H1B… For that reason, for example, a computer system analyst may be employed under the TN category, but a programmer may not be.

See additional information on TN status and visa here.

H2B Visa and Status

These visas are reserved for citizens of certain countries in connection with temporary, seasonal assignments not related to the agricultural work. The employment must be a full time one, and an employer has to obtain a temporary labor certification. The job may be professional, skilled, or unskilled. Typically, an H2B visa can be valid for up to 1 year; may be extended in increments of one year up to three years. To be legible for another three years, the H2b beneficiary must remain outside the US for three months. This category is typically used by hotels to attract seasonal employees, resorts, golf clubs, etc. But H2b may be used for a one-time length project as well. The key qualification here is that the job, the position has to be temporary as defined by the need of the employer, not customers. In practice, the H2b assignments will be counted in months. Interestingly, in certain limited circumstances, an H2B visa may be granted to domestic workers. (B visa may be suitable for accompanying non-immigrants domestic workers as well!)

O visa and Status

O visa and status are for those who can demonstrate extraordinary ability in science, education, business, athletics, arts, motion picture, or television industries. Unlike for the EB1 category, here an employment offer is required, and O visa is employer-specific. O visa allows for unlimited extensions. The petition may be filed by a US employer, agent, or even a foreign employer through an agent, but not by the person seeking status. Drawbacks of this choice are that it requires a very detailed itinerary (timeline of what and where the beneficiary will be doing in the US), and a letter-consultation from the appropriate professional organization if such exists. O1 visa may be a good option for one subject to J1 2 year- residency requirement. For a successful O petition, one would have to present:

P visa and Status

P classification is typically used by internationally recognized athletes and entertainers, it is available for established entertainment groups, individual athletes, and athletic teams. Initial P-1 petitions for individual athletes may be valid for up to five years. P-1 for teams, not to exceed one year. P-1 is an employer-specific visa. Here, a detailed itinerary will also be required. Under the COMPETE Act, coaches can be eligible for P-1 classification, but this category is limited to coaches of teams or franchises located in the U.S. that are part of an international league or association of 15 or more amateur sports teams. If the applicant will be working at the same time for multiple employers, separate petitions will have to be filed for him/her. A solution here would be to use an established agent that will need only a single petition to be filed for the person. A foreign employer likewise has to use the services of an agent in order to file a petition for a P worker.

For explanation related to business-related employment visas, please visit.

If you need help finding a solution for your situation, reserve a confidential consultation with our NYC Immigration lawyers by calling 917-885-2261.

US Work Visa: Lawyer's Publications

  • H1B Extension Beyond Six-Year Limit: When Is It Possible?

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    US work visaslawyer: Author: US Immigration Lawyer Alena Shautsova H1B is an excellent opportunity for a worker to come to the USA and engage in legal employment. But it comes with its limitations. It is not possible to hold it for more than 6 years! In addi...

  • New H1B Rules

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    US work visaslawyer: Author: Work Visa Lawyer Alena Shautsova The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed a new plan to modernize the H-1B worker program. The goal is to make the program more efficient and flexible for both companies and workers....

  • EB2 National Interest Waiver: Technicalities That Determine The Case

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    US work visaslawyer: Author: NYC Immigration lawyer Alena Shautsova EB2 NIW or employment self-petition based on a national interest waiver is a way for a non-citizen to obtain permanent residency in the United States without the need of an employer petiti...

  • EB-2 National Interest Waivers (Non-Physicians)

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    US work visaslawyer: What to do if you would like to obtain a green card or permanent residency in the United States but you do not have anyone to petition for you, such as an employer. In certain cases, a person may self-petition for permanent residency in t...

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