A United States work visa is an employment-based visa that allows foreign nationals to enter and stay in the United States while working legally. These visas are not permanent, and the duration a person is allowed to remain in the United States depends on the type of visa they are issued.
To obtain a work visa, a prospective US employer must first file a petition with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Once USCIS approves the petition, the potential employee may apply for a work visa.
To be eligible and approved for a work visa, a foreign national must meet all requirements mandated by USCIS, submit a visa application and supporting documents, and undergo an in-person interview. This process takes place in the potential employee's home country. Once approved, the employee is permitted to enter the United States and begin working.
Types of Work Visa
There are several work visa depending on the purpose and the kind of work you want to do.
1. H1B visa: Person in Specialty Occupation. To work in a specialty occupation. Requires a higher education degree or its equivalent. Includes fashion models of distinguished merit and ability and government-to-government research and development, or co-production projects administered by the Department of Defense.
2. H-1 B1 visa: Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Professional - Chile, Singapore. To work in a specialty occupation. Requires a post-secondary degree involving at least four years of study in the field of specialization. (Note: This is not a petition-based visa.)
3. H-2A visa: Temporary Agricultural Worker. For temporary or seasonal agricultural work. Limited to citizens or nationals of designated countries, with limited exceptions, if determined to be in the United States interest.
4. H-2B visa: Temporary Non-agricultural Worker. For temporary or seasonal non- agricultural work. Limited to citizens or nationals of designated countries, with limited exceptions, if determined to be in the United States interest.
5. H-3 visa: Trainee or Special Education visitor. To receive training, other than graduate medical or academic, that is not available in the trainee’s home country or practical training programs in the education of children with mental, physical, or emotional disabilities.
6. I visa: Representatives of Foreign Media. The visa allows journalists and those who work in the information or media sector to complete their work while in the US.
7. L1 visa: Intracompany Transferee. To work at a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of the current employer in a managerial or executive capacity, or in a position requiring specialized knowledge. Individual must have been employed by the same employer abroad continuously for 1 year within the three preceding years
8. P-1 visa: Individual or Team Athlete, or Member of an Entertainment Group. To perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete or as a member of an entertainment group. Requires an internationally recognized level of sustained performance. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the above individual.
9. P-2 visa: Artist or Entertainer (Individual or Group). For performance under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the United States and an organization in another country. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the above individual.
10. P-3 visa: Artist or Entertainer (Individual or Group). To perform, teach or coach under a program that is culturally unique or a traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performance or presentation. Includes persons providing essential services in support of the above individual.
11. R-1 visa: Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Workers. To help foreign nationals to come to the US and work in a religious organization. Only ministers and those who are directly tied to religious work are qualified.
12. TN visa: NAFTA Workers. This visa allows lawyers, scientists, engineers, teachers from Canada to work in the US temporarily.
13. O1 Visa: Visa for persons with extraordinary abilities. The O1 visa is for those who show expert knowledge in science, business, education, athletics, or art, including international recognition for their work.
- Valid passport – which needs to be valid for the entire duration of your stay in the US and an additional six months after you return
- US visa photo – which you need to upload when you fill out the online application form.
- The Receipt Number, which you can find on your approved Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (I-129 Form) which your employer filed.
- A confirmation page that you have completed your Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160 Form).
- Receipt that proves that you have paid the application fee. For US work visas, the application fee is $190. There might also be additional fees that apply to your location, so you should check with your local US Embassy about more details.
- Proof that you will return to your home country after your work in the US ends. This applies to all types of work visas with the exception of the H-1B and the L visa.
Examples of how you can prove you will return from the US include the following:
- Submitting your economic situation
- Your family relationships
- Any long term plans you might have
- Residence that you plan on returning to
For those applying for an L Visa, you will also need to have a filled I-129S form (Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition). You should bring this form with you when you have your visa interview.
Besides these general requirements, which apply to all those who want to get a US work visa, there might also be other documents which you need to submit. You should contact your local US Embassy for more detailed information.
How To Get a Work Visa – Step-by-Step
Obtaining a work visa can be a complicated process, and several steps must be completed before, during, and after the visa process.
Before Applying for a Visa
A foreign national and their potential employer must meet three requirements before even applying for a work visa. If they do not meet all three, the visa application can be denied.
- Job Offer: A foreign national who wishes to work in the United States temporarily must have first applied for and received an offer for a job in the United States.
- Petition by Employer: Once a foreign national has been offered a job, the potential employer must file a petition on their behalf. Employers must submit a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Work to the USCIS. Without an approved petition, a person cannot even begin the application process for a work visa. Even with an approved petition, a work visa is not guaranteed.
- Approval by the Department of Labor: The following work visas require that the employer receive a certificate from the DOL before submitting their petition:
The certificate from the DOL proves that the employer needs foreign workers and is unable to fill the open position with a worker from the United States.
After fulfilling the above requirements and receiving an approved petition from USCIS, the foreign national can begin the visa application process. The applicant must follow the following steps:
- Visa Application: The applicant must complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. All the information entered must be truthful and accurate. While the application is available in different languages, all answers must be in English. Once this form is complete and submitted, the confirmation page must be printed.
- Schedule an Interview: After applying, the applicant is required to schedule an interview at a US Embassy in the country where they live. Applicants must have their approved petition receipt number to schedule the interview. Wait times for an appointment vary by country.
- Prepare for the Interview: Preparation is essential to ensure a successful interview. Applicants must pay the non-refundable visa application fee before the interview. They must also gather all required documentation to bring to the interview.
- Valid passport
- Nonimmigrant Visa Application confirmation page
- Application fee payment receipt
- Passport photo that meets guidelines
- Approved petition receipt number
- Attend the Interview: At the interview, the applicant will meet with a consulate officer. The officer will review the application and ask the applicant a series of questions. It is crucial to be honest, and thorough in answering these questions. Officers are trained to detect deception and will deny a visa if they feel the applicant is dishonest.
Depending on the applicant’s home country, they mare require additional documentation. Applicants should check the embassy or consulate website to make sure they have all necessary documents. Required documents include:
Applicants must prove that they have compelling ties to their home country and plan on returning after the duration of the temporary US visa. These ties can include:
- Owning a residence in their home country that they plan to return to
- Family relationships and strong ties to their home country
- Economic situation
- Long term plans
At this interview, the applicant’s fingerprints will be taken, and if the visa is approved, the applicant can pay a visa insurance fee.
How ODMIT will help you?
ODMIT offers end-to-end support to help make your application process smoother. Our services include:
- Immigration documents checklist
- Complete application processing
- Forms, documentation & application filing
- Updates & follow up
- Job search services
- Relocation and post-landing support in Canada