Individuals that want to live and work in the United States typically obtain a work visa. Work visas encompass a variety of classifications. The appropriate work visa will depend upon the proposed position and job duties, as well as the applicant’s qualifications. Applications for virtually all work visas are filed on Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker by the prospective U.S. employer sponsor. Once the Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker has been approved, the foreign national employee can change their nonimmigrant status if in the United States or obtain a visa from a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad.
Types Of Work Visas
There are a variety of work visas available to foreign nationals seeking employment in the United States. Some of the more common work visas include:
- H-1B: A classification for workers who have completed the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s degree or higher and will work in a specialty occupation in the U.S. that requires the theoretical and practical application of specialized knowledge;
- L-1A: A classification for intracompany transferees who have and will work in an executive or managerial position and have worked for a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary abroad for at least 1 out of the preceding 3 years;
- L-1B: A classification for intracompany transferees who have gained and will utilize specialized knowledge about their employer’s products, processes, procedures or services, and have worked for a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary abroad for at least 1 out of the preceding 3 years;
- O-1: A classification for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television field who intend to continue working in their field in the U.S.;
- TN: A classification for nationals of Canada and Mexico who will work in a professional occupation in the U.S. and have the required qualifications as set forth in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA);
- E-1: A classification for nationals of countries that have a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation or Bilateral Investment Treaty with the United States and wish to come to the U.S. to conduct substantial trade between the U.S. and the treaty country; and
- E-2: A classification for nationals of countries that have a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation or Bilateral Investment Treaty with the United States and wish to come to the U.S. to direct and develop the operations of an enterprise in which they have invested a significant amount of capital.
Work visas can provide an avenue for foreign national employees to obtain an employment-based green card. Some classifications require the employer to file a labor certification to initiate the green card process, whereas others allow the employer to immediately file an I-140 Petition for Alien Worker on behalf of their foreign national employee. After the I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker has been approved, the foreign national employee may complete the final step in the green card process and file their I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status when their priority date is current. To fully understand the work visas for which an individual is eligible, as well as the applicable green card procedures, an experienced immigration attorney should be consulted.