Temporary Nonimmigrant Visas
Temporary Employment Based NONIMMIGRANT VISAS:
Foreign nationals may apply for several categories of temporary worker visas. These visas are nonimmigrant visas meant for those who seek to work temporarily in the United States. Certain categories of visas, such as the H-1B visa category, are limited in number, with strict annual quotas.
In order to obtain a temporary employment visa, generally a U.S. employer or agent must first file a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If this petition is approved, it is the foreign national's responsibility to obtain a temporary employment visa.
Specific types of temporary employment visa categories include:
E Treaty Visas
E visas are available to individuals entering the U.S. to engage in trade or investment services or activities.
"E-1" (Treaty Trader) visas are available to individuals who own or work for companies that do a substantial amount of trade with the United States, and who will be working for that company in the United States for an extended period of time. E-1 visa applicants must establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer that their company carries on well-established and significant trade in goods and/or services between the treaty country and the United States.
"E-2 " (Treaty Investor) visas are available to individuals who personally invest a substantial amount of their own money in ventures within the United States. These visas can only be issued if the U.S. has a treaty with the alien's country.
"E-3 " visas are available only to citizens of Australia who will be employed in the U.S. in to perform services in a specialty occupation.
“H-1B” visas are reserved for “specialty occupations,” meaning professional positions in which a Bachelor’s or higher degree (or its equivalent) is normally the minimum entry requirement for the position. Further, employers must pay H-1B employees a wage which is no less than the prevailing wage for the position in the geographic area in which the H-1B worker will be working as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Currently, there are only 85,000 H-1B visas available to be issued every year (with 20,000 of those reserved for graduates from U.S. institutions with Master's degrees or higher).
H-1B visas are usually granted for periods of three years, with a maximum duration of six years, though a person's H-1B visa status period can be extended past the 6 year limit in situations where that individual has an approved employment-based permanent residence petition. Also, only time physically spent in the U.S. counts against this maximum duration of status, and so time outside of the U.S. while in H-1 B status may be "recaptured." Further, upon exhausting their duration of H-1B status, a person may reapply for after a one (1) year absence from the United States. There are also special provisions for applicants from Chile and Singapore.
An H-1B employee's spouse and children may accompany him/her to the U.S. as H-4 dependents, but the H-4 spouse cannot apply for employment authorization in the U.S. except in limited circumstances where the H-1B spouse has an approved immigrant petition.
“H-2A" visas for temporary agricultural and "H-2B” visas for temporary non-agricultural labor are available for employees performing services that are of a temporary or seasonal nature.
“H-3” is available for certain categories of trainees.
Members of foreign press/media who report on news events and who need to travel to the United States to gather information for the media may be eligible for an I-visa if they:
- Represent a foreign information media outlet.
- Are coming to the United States to engage solely in this profession; and
- Have a home office in a foreign country.
Journalists and media workers can also obtain an I-visa if they are being assigned to reside in the U.S. as representatives of a foreign press, radio, film, or other information medium which as a home office in a foreign country and the applicant’s government allows for reciprocal visas to American information media.
The L-1A and L-1B visas are two types of work visas that allow for intracompany transfer for employees in managerial positions or have specialized knowledge who work for companies operating both in the United States and abroad.
To qualify for an L visa:
- The U.S. company and the foreign company have a "qualifying relationship" - i.e. that the U.S. company be a parent/subsidiary, branch office, or affiliate of the foreign company.
- The employee coming to work in the U.S. must have been continuously employed full-time by the foreign company for at least 1 year within the last 3 years before filing the L-1 petition. have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of the U.S. company outside of the United States for at least one year out of the last three years.
- The employment with the foreign company must have been in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.
- The employee’s work for the US company must be in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.
Unlike the H-1B visa category, the L-1 visa category does not have a prevailing wage requirement and there is no annual numerical limit to the number of L-1 visas issued. However, like the H-1B visa category, an individual may not hold an L-1 status indefinitely. The maximum duration of L-1A status is seven (7) years and the maximum duration of L-1B status is five (5) years. However, only time physically spent in the U.S. counts against this maximum duration of status, and so time outside of the U.S. while in L-1 status may be "recaptured." Further, upon exhausting their duration of L-1 status, a person may reapply for after a one (1) year absence from the United States.
There is a permanent immigrant visa category for multinational managers or executives that is similar in requirements to the temporary nonimmigrant “L-1A” visa category for executives and managers. For more information about immigrant visas, please visit our page on Permanent Residency.
The P visa is available to entertainers, circus artists, and athletes who are coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific competition or event. The P visa classifications that are available based on the specific purpose of the applicant's temporary travel to the United States include:
- P-1A classification - solely for the purpose of performing at a specific athletic competition.
- P-1B classification - to perform as a member of a qualifying internationally recognized entertainment group.
- P-2 Individual Performer or Group classification - to perform under a Reciprocal Exchange Program between an organization in the United States and an organization in another country.
- P-3 Artist or Entertainer classification - to perform, teach or coach as an artist or entertainer under a program that is culturally unique.
The O-1 visa is available to individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. The O visa classifications that are available based on the specific purpose of the applicant's temporary travel to the United States include:
- O-1A: Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry);
- O-1B: Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry;
- O-2: Individuals who will accompany an O-1 artist or athlete to assist in a specific event or performance; and
- O-3: Individuals who are the spouse or children of O-1 and O-2 visa holders.
Unlike the H-1B visa category, the O-1 visa category: does not have a prevailing wage requirement, may be extended indefinitely, and there is no annual numerical limit to the number of O-1 visas issued.
A student visa is required to study in the United States.
The F-1 visa is the most common type of student visa. It is given to students attending an SEVP-approved school.
An F-1 visa may be obtained for a student who wishes to pursue full-time academic studies in a college, university, seminar, conservatory, private academic high school, other academic institution, or language-training program. The first step to obtaining an F-1 student visa is to apply to and enroll in a SEVP-approved school in the United States. To maintain legal F-1 visa status, students must be enrolled full-time and must attend all classes.
An M visa is issued to international students who are coming to the US to pursue full-time course study at an established vocational school or other nonacademic school that has been approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To apply for a student visa, an individual must be already accepted to the university / vocational school and be able to provide a letter from the university establishing enrollment.
The J-1 visa is designated for educational and cultural exchange programs and is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. This visa is commonly used by foreign doctors who wish to train in the United States.
“B” visas are nonimmigrant visas for non-U.S. foreign nationals who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (visa category B-1), for tourism (visa category B-2), or for a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2). Unless the foreign national who wishes to enter the United States as a visitor is citizen of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program the foreign national is required to obtain a nonimmigrant B visa. Applicants for such visas are required to make it clear to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy that they do not intend to remain permanently in the United States.