How Long Does It Take to Get a Work Visa

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Insights on Immigrant Visas: Tips for Foreign Nationals

Generally, if you are a non-US citizen seeking employment in the US, you need a valid work visa or work permit to legally work here.

A “work visa” is a document that allows a nonimmigrant to enter the US to work for a specific employer. Those with employment visas do not need to get a separate work permit. On the other hand, if you want to be able to work for any US employer, you need to secure a “work permit.” Depending on the type of job you are going to do and your immigration status, you may be required to apply for a work visa or a work permit.

This article covers the different types of work visas for nonimmigrants, the work visa application process, and strategies to minimize delays in your application. Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, can guide you through the work visa application from start to finish. Schedule a free consultation today to learn more about your options to legally work in the US.

Understanding Work Visa Processing Times

Work visas issued in the US are either temporary or permanent.

A temporary work visa is issued to those looking to work for a specified or fixed period. Temporary visa holders plan to stay in the country for a short time. On the other hand, those who plan to work and live in the US permanently may seek a green card and become permanent residents.

For nonimmigrant workers, their potential employer usually files a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The employee then applies for a work visa after USCIS has approved the petition.

The US work visa process times can range from three weeks to four months. There is no fixed timeframe.

Types of Temporary Work Visas

The following are some of the most common types of temporary work visas and the projected processing times for the visa approval:

  • H1-B visa: This is issued to highly qualified professionals, persons in the academic field, or those with specialty occupations. The applicant must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty for which the applicant is seeking employment.

    If you want to obtain this type of visa, contact an H1B visa attorney to guide you in the application process. The average processing times for this visa range from three to six months.

  • L-1 visa: This visa is issued to employees who work for companies with offices in the US. L-1 visa holders usually work at the managerial or executive level of the company. It is required that they have been employed in their country company for at least one year within the three years preceding the visa application. It can take three to four months before this visa is approved.

  • O visa: This is for individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, business, athletics, and education. Processing of this visa typically takes two to three months.

  • P visa: This is issued to certain individuals in athletics, entertainment, or the arts. Visa processing usually takes three to six months.

  • Q visa: Those traveling to the US to participate in an international cultural exchange program should apply for a Q visa. Q visa processing time takes 15 days to three months.

Many other work visas are available for a wide range of situations and job types. It is essential that you choose the right visa category specific to your job to avoid delays and ensure work visa approval.

Factors Affecting Processing Times

Various factors affect the processing time for work visa applications, including:

  • Country-specific requirements and variations: Any work visa in the US requires an applicant to meet specific requirements. A person’s nationality, qualifications, duration of stay, and company affiliation are carefully evaluated to determine eligibility.

  • Type of work visa: Each visa has a timeline for approval. The USCIS releases updated processing times online for its key forms; this can help you determine your potential wait time.

  • Immigration authorities workload: The USCIS receives and processes many applications annually. The large number of visa applications contributes to processing delays.

  • Mistakes in the application: If there is a mistake in the application or a necessary document is missing, the application will be delayed. You may be able to correct the error or submit the missing document. However, understand that the processing time will start only upon submission of the correct documents.

The Application Process for Work Visas

Before applying for a work visa, your employer should file a work visa petition with the USCIS. Once the petition is granted, you can begin processing your work visa.

The work visa application process includes:

  1. Preparing the petition.
  2. Submitting the petition to the USCIS and paying the filing fee.
  3. Waiting for a decision from USCIS. If this is under regular processing, waiting times can range from weeks to months. However, most US work visas allow premium processing for an extra fee.
  4. Attend the visa interview with the consular officer in your home country. Have your passport stamped with your work visa. When you attend the visa interview, make sure that the following documents are ready:
    • Printout of the confirmation page of your visa application;

    • The receipt of payment;

    • Passport sized photos;

    • Receipt number of the employer’s approved petition;

    • Your passport.

Other documents may be required depending on the type of work visa you applied for, such as evidence of your job qualifications and letters from current and previous employers.

Common Mistakes and How To Avoid Them

While mistakes can happen while filing the visa application, you can avoid them through careful preparation. Some common mistakes first-time work visa applicants make include inadequate, missing, or outdated documentation and information.

  • Inadequate documentation: Always check the USCIS website for the most recent list of requirements, as the required documents may change. Creating a checklist or printing a copy of the list can help verify you have all the necessary documents and forms.

  • Documents are not updated: If there are recent changes to your circumstances, like getting married or having a child, ensure that these are reflected in the documents you submit. Otherwise, it can cause a delay in the processing of your employment visa.

  • Lack of supporting documents to prove your qualifications: You must establish eligibility for the visa you are applying for. Having supporting documents to prove your qualifications for the job is crucial.

  • Providing incomplete or inaccurate information: Simple mistakes like typographical errors, incorrect spelling, or missing information can lead to visa delays or even denial. Double-check everything before you submit the application form.

Visa applications are a complex process that can be draining and time-consuming. Aside from preparing carefully, having experienced immigration attorneys guiding you can help save precious time and energy.

Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law Can Help

Visa processing takes time. With an experienced and skilled attorney’s guidance, you can ensure you get your work visa on time. When it comes to processing work visa applications, Andrew T. Thomas, Attorneys at Law, can help you navigate the complexities of the law and the administrative procedures.

Aside from temporary work visas, our experienced attorneys can help you apply for work employment authorization and any green card category. We have helped thousands of clients achieve their green card status and become lawful permanent residents of the US. To learn more about your green card options, read our Green Card Categories Explained piece.

Need more information about the immigration process? Contact us today!