Employment Visa Types

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What Is an Employment Visa?

A foreign national should apply for an immigrant visa before entering the US for work or gainful employment. There are different employment visa types. Also called work visas, they can be issued as temporary visas or immigrant visas.

Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, offers confidential and professional assistance to those who require legal immigration services, advice, and guidance.

Overview of Different Employment Visa Categories

For those looking to work in the United States, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has a range of nonimmigrant and immigrant employment visas. These visas are meant to support a variety of scenarios and career pathways.

Immigrant Visas

There are five categories of employment-based (EB) visas:

  • EB-1 Visa (Priority Workers or First Preference): This visa is for highly skilled workers, eminent academics and researchers, and executives and managers. It makes the holder a lawful permanent resident without the need to renew the visa. Family members of the professionals holding an EB-1 visa, such as spouses and children below 21, can apply for E-14 and E-15 visas, respectively.

  • EB-2 Visa (Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability or Second Preference): This employment-based visa is reserved for those with advanced degrees or exceptional ability in their field. Visa holders become permanent residents and can work permanently in the US.

  • EB-3 Visa (Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers) or Third Preference): This visa is for professionals, experts, and workers with less than two years of experience. Visa holders receive permanent residency.

  • EB-4 Visa (Certain Special Immigrants or Fourth Preference): This visa is for special immigrants, such as broadcasters, religious workers, and some US foreign service post employees. EB-4 visa holders are also given permanent residency.

  • EB-5 Visa (Immigrant Investors or Fifth Preference): This visa gives foreign investors who make significant investments in US businesses a route to permanent residency in the United States. The visa holder is given a conditional Green Card and then permanent residency. 

Nonimmigrant or Temporary Visas

Temporary employment visas for temporary workers include:

  • H-1B Visa (Person in Specialty Occupation): This employer-sponsored visa is given to professionals with specialized skills. It has a limited annual cap. The visa has an initial validity of three years, extendable up to six years. Extensions may be granted after the six-year limit in specific situations while employment-based Green Card applications are pending.

  • H-2A (Temporary Agricultural Worker): The visa is designed for agricultural workers to fill in seasonal or temporary agricultural jobs. Employers must prove that they cannot find enough American workers for the position and that hiring foreign labor will not have a detrimental effect on American workers’ pay and working conditions.

    Furthermore, employers must apply for a US labor certification from the Department of Labor before submitting the petition to the USCIS. For a maximum of one year, the H-2A visa is usually granted for the period of the authorized labor certification. There is no cap on the total length of stay. Visa extensions are allowed in increments of up to one year. Employers must obtain a new labor certification for every request for an extension.

  • H-2B (Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker): The H-2B visa is intended for temporary employment in non-agricultural fields such as construction, landscaping, hospitality, and other seasonal industries. Employers must prove there is a shortage of local workers and get a temporary labor certification.

    The validity of the visa is based on the duration of the temporary labor certification, up to a maximum of one year. Extension of visa validity is also possible.

  • H-3 Visa (Trainee or Special Education Visitor): Those who want to participate in a training program in the United States that isn’t primarily intended for employment are eligible for the H-3 visa.

    Those requesting H-3 visas must be sponsored and petitioned by a US employer or organization. It is granted for the duration of the training, a maximum of two years. Generally, there is no extension after the two years.

  • L-1 Visa (Intracompany Transferee): Those being transferred to a US office as intracompany transferees from a multinational corporation are eligible for the L-1 visa. It has two subcategories, namely L-1A for managers and executives and L-2A for employees possessing specialized knowledge.

    Both visas are valid for three years, allowing extensions every two years, up to a maximum of seven years. Renewal of the L-1 visa is allowed.

  • O-1 Visa (Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement): The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is intended for those with exceptional abilities in the humanities, sciences, business, education, or athletics. Alternatively, it is for those with a track record of noteworthy success in the motion picture or television industries, acknowledged domestically and globally for their accomplishments. The visa allows the holder to stay in the US for up to three years. An extension of up to one year is allowed.

  • P-1 Visa (Individual or Team Athlete or Member of an Entertainment Group): To enter the country to participate in a sporting event or entertainment event, athletes, entertainers, and the people who support them are eligible to apply for the P-1 nonimmigrant visa category in the United States. It is valid during the specific event and can be extended in one-year increments.

  • P-2 Visa (Artist or Entertainer, Individual or Group): The P-2 visa is intended for performers or artists participating in reciprocal exchange programs. Through this program, organizations or entities in the United States and other countries exchange artists and entertainers. The goal of the P-2 visa category is to encourage cross-cultural collaboration.

  • P-3 Visa (Artist or Entertainer Coming to be Part of a Culturally Unique Program)Entertainers and artists who are traveling to the United States to take part in a program that is artistic, theatrical, folk, traditional, ethnic, or cultural in nature are eligible for the P-3 visa.

  • Q-1 Visa (Participant in an International Cultural Exchange Program): Visitors on cultural exchanges who come to the United States to share their history, customs, and culture with the American people usually use the Q-1 visa.

Eligibility Criteria for Each Visa Type

The conditions for obtaining a work permit in the United States may differ based on the kind of visa the applicant requests. Nonetheless, a few standard procedures and prerequisites apply to a wide range of work visa categories, including:

  • Job offer from a prospective employer;

  • An approved petition;

  • Labor certification;

  • Medical examination;

  • Nonimmigrant intent (for temporary visas);

  • Supporting Documents such as passports, visa application forms, photographs, and others;

  • Payment of fees;

  • Consular or USCIS interview;

  • Background checks;

  • Maintaining legal status.

Some specific requirements per visa category include:

  • H-1B Visa: Applicants should possess a relevant US bachelor’s degree, a foreign degree equivalent to a US bachelor’s degree, or work experience. The job being applied for must qualify as a specialty occupation.

  • H-2A and H-2B Visas: Applicants must be from the Department of Homeland Security’s list of eligible countries.

  • E-B1 Visa: Applicants must demonstrate extraordinary ability by providing evidence of expertise and achievement.

  • E-B2 Visa: Applicants must meet at least three criteria for exceptional abilities. Criteria include having at least ten years of full-time experience in their occupation, being a member of their relevant professional association, possessing a license to practice their occupation, and a recognition of achievements.

Application Process and Requirements

Nonimmigrant Employment Visa Application Process

The usual steps to apply for a US nonimmigrant employment visa include:

  1. A US-based employer should file a petition on behalf of the applicant. If approved, the USCIS will issue a Notice of Approval.
  2. The applicant may then apply for a visa by completing the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (DS-160) form.
  3. The applicant must pay the visa application fee.
  4. After approval, the applicant must schedule an interview at the US embassy or
  5. consulate.The applicant will provide biometric information and complete any necessary medical examinations.

Immigrant Employment Visa Application Process

For a US immigrant employment visa, the following will typically occur:

  1. A US-based employer should file a petition on behalf of the applicant. If approved, the USCIS will issue a Notice of Approval.
  2. If the applicant is in the US, they should apply for an adjustment of status once the petition is approved. If outside the US, they must go through the consular process.
  3. The applicant will undergo medical examinations and attend a biometric appointment.
  4. The applicant will schedule and undergo a visa interview.

Required Documents

Some of the general documents required for a US work visa include:

  • Valid passport;

  • Application forms;

  • Passport-sized photos;

  • Form I-797 or the Approval Notice;

  • Job offer letter;

  • Labor certification;

  • Professional qualifications;

  • Resume;

  • Proof of ties to home country;

  • Financial documents;

  • Police certificates;

  • Medical exam results.

Those who applied for permanent residency will receive an A-number from the USCIS.

Common Obstacles Faced by Employment Visa Seekers

People seeking employment in the US may face the following hurdles:

  • Annual visa quotas;

  • Visa wait times;

  • Labor certification requirements;

  • Competitive application;

  • Sudden changes in immigration policies;

  • Lack of documentation;

  • Security and background checks;

  • Dependence on a US employer for the petition.

How an Immigration Attorney Can Help

An experienced immigration attorney is well-versed in the visa application process. They can explain the visa application procedures and the various visa and green card categories. They are also updated with the sudden changes in the immigration and visa application policies.

By seeking the legal counsel of Andrew T. Thomas, Attorney at Law, clients reduce the risks of missing any necessary step in their application. Our team is with you every step of the way throughout the immigration process.

Immigration Concerns? Contact Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law

The lawyers at Andrew T. Thomas have extensive experience handling a wide range of immigration cases. Our satisfied clients can testify to the excellence of our team. We are also a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Legal support is invaluable in your immigration journey. Call us today to discuss how we can help you achieve your American dream!