There are numerous visa categories that allow foreign nationals to work temporarily in the U.S. Most require sponsorship by a U.S. employer, and each category has specific eligibility criteria for the company, the individual, and the offered position. Obtaining a work visa is an incredibly complex process, and requires precision, efficiency, and expertise in navigating the ever-shifting landscape of U.S. immigration law. At Indus Law Firm, we specialize in employment-based visas, and have successfully obtained work visas for individuals on behalf of employers in healthcare, IT, engineering, manufacturing, hospitality, and the arts. We also specialize in obtaining work visas for startups, nonprofits, and educational and research institutions.
Listed below are several types of visas available for professionals in the U.S.
The H-1B visa allows foreign nationals who have obtained at least a Bachelor’s degree (or U.S. equivalent) to work in the U.S. for up to six years. The H-1B classification requires a job offer in a specialty occupation, and is limited by a numerical cap of 85,000 visas each fiscal year (65,000 for bachelor’s degree holders and an additional 20,000 for holders of a U.S. master’s degree or higher). Universities and related nonprofit entities, nonprofit research organizations and government research organizations are exempt from this cap. These employers are able to submit an H-1B application to the USCIS at any time during the year without concern for the fiscal year limit.
The J-1 visa is for exchange visitors who come to the United States to participate in an exchange visitor program administered by the U.S. Department of State. J-1 programs include trainees, college or university students, secondary school students, professors and research scholars, short-term scholars, specialists, foreign medical graduates, international and government visitors, teachers, camp counselors, au pairs, and summer work/travel students.
The L-1 visa category allows for the intra-company transfer of certain employees within multinational companies. The L-1A visa allows a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from an affiliated foreign office to one of its offices in the United States, and the L-1B visa allows the transfer of a professional employee with specialized knowledge. Both the L-1A and the L-1B allow a foreign company that does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office to transfer executives/managers, or those with specialized knowledge, to the United States to help establish one. Large employers may be eligible to file blanket L-1 petitions with the USCIS, rather than filing individual petitions for each employee.
The O-1 visa category is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (O-1A Visa), or with extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry (O-1B Visa), and who have been recognized nationally or internationally for their achievements. In addition, the O-2 visa allows individuals to accompany an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance, and the O-3 visa allows individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1 and O-2 visa holders to accompany them to the U.S.
The TN category is a unique visa option for citizens of Canada and Mexico who wish to work in the United States. There is no numerical limit or cap on the number of TN visas that may be issued. This category is for professionals who are offered employment in a specific occupation listed in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs, if they are nationals of eligible countries. The H-2B allows the same for temporary nonagricultural jobs, but is subject to an annual numerical limitation, currently 66,000 per fiscal year (33,000 for workers who begin employment October 1 - March 31 and 33,000 for workers who begin employment April 1 - September 30.
- E-1 International Treaty Traders
- E-3 Australian Specialty Occupation Workers
- H-3 Trainees or Special Education Exchange Visitors
- I Representatives of Foreign Media
- L-2 Work Authorized Dependents of L-1 Employees
- P-1/P-2/P-3 Performers and Athletes
- Q-1 Cultural Exchange
R-1 Religious Worke