Work Visas (Temporary & Permanent Work Visas)
Foreign nationals seeking professional employment in the U.S. must obtain a work visa. In general, work visas are based on a specific offer of employment from a U.S. employer. You may obtain either a temporary work visa or obtain a "green card" i.e., U.S. permanent residence status through employment. This depends on the employer, the job opening, and required qualifications.
This type of visa is for employees who seek temporary work in the U.S. and requires sponsorship by a U.S. employer. In most instances, once the visa petition has been approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the employee has to apply for the visa at the U.S. consulate in his/her country of origin. In some instances, the employee can directly apply abroad with the appropriate U.S. consulate/embassy.
There are several classifications of temporary work visas categorized according to professional skills and job requirements.
- E Visa Categories - For Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors.
- H Visa Categories - For professionals, skilled and specialty workers.
- J Visa Category - For those involved in educational and cultural exchange programs.
- L Visa Category - For intra-company transfers of employees.
- O Visa Categories - For workers with extraordinary abilities.
- P Visa Categories - For athletes and entertainers.
- R Visa Category - For religious workers.
- TN Visa Category - For workers of Canada and Mexico under NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).
The H-1B Visa is the most popular visa for foreign nationals seeking to work in the U.S. It is also one of the most frequently utilized routes to obtain an employment-based "green card" through a U.S. sponsor.
Employers who wish to retain a temporary worker for a permanent full-time job can file a petition for permanent residence or "green card" for their foreign worker.
- There are certain basic requirements for sponsoring a "green card": The employer must establish the unavailability of U.S. workers for the job.
- The employer must file the petition for the "green card" and file for labor certification/PERM (this process determines the eligibility of the employee for the "green card").
- The employer must be willing and financially capable of paying the prevailing wage for the offered position. The employer must also demonstrate that the employee has the required skills and expertise required to perform the job.
Majority of the professional employees working in the U.S. on H-1B work visa obtain a "green card" through their petitioning U.S. employer.
Based on professional skills, there are basically five (5) Employment-Based (EB) preference categories under which a foreign worker can work and obtain U.S. permanent residence status through a U.S. sponsor. There are certain categories which do not require sponsorship or labor certification/PERM.
- EB-1 Visa - First Preference - Priority workers.
- EB-2 Visa - Second Preference - Advanced degrees or exceptional abilities.
- EB-3 Visa - Third Preference - Professionals, skilled workers, and other workers.
- EB-4 Visa - Fourth Preference - Workers in religious occupation/vocation.
- EB-5 Visa - Fifth Preference - Employment creation.
If you are the owner of an organization, check our Immigration Compliance for Employers.
It is important to note that processing times for employment-based permanent residence petitions vary widely depending on the category in which the case is filed.