US Immigration – A Guide for Employees
Contents of Employee Guide
- Can I be a freelance contractor in the US?
- H1B Visas
- L1 Visas
- E Visas
- E-3 Visas for Australians
- What about my spouse and children?
- Other Visas
- Lawful Permanent Residence –The 'Green Card'
- Contact workpermit.com
US Immigration Application Forms :
- US Immigration General Assessment Form for Individual
- US H-1B Visa Application Form - Candidate's Version
There are 5 main ways an individual can obtain residency and work authorization in the United States:
- Sponsorship by an Employer
- Sponsorship by a close Family Member in the United States
- The Diversity Visa Lottery Program
- Asylum & Refugee Status
Workpermit.com can help you with the first 4 items from the above list.
If you are interested in investment in the USA, please see information about the various investment based visas.
The main types of temporary US work visas are the H1B, the L1 and the E.
For many people, obtaining a 'Green Card' is a significant personal goal. The technical term is 'lawful permanent residence', and the visa is no longer green, but we are happy to use the near-universally accepted term 'Green Card'.
The sad news is that it will generally take several years to obtain a green card, so your employer will probably want to use a temporary ('non-immigrant') visa to get you to the US; once you are there you can embark on the longer project of getting your 'Green Card'
For further details about green cards from the point of view of the employer, Click here.
Being a professional freelance contractor, in the way that IT professionals have been able to in Australia, the UK (pre IR35), and (albeit only recently) in much of Continental Europe, is not an option in the US.
This restriction is not linked to visa requirements. Indeed, agencies are able to sponsor visas, and in 1998/9 Computer People was the 2nd largest user of H-1B visas. However, in the US people do not normally act through personal service companies, because laws force them to be the direct employees of the agency.
This is a visa for people coming to the USA to work for a US employer in a professional-level position. Valid for 3 years initially, can be extended to 6.
Candidate must have secured job offer from a US source.
In order to get an H1B visa you will need the equivalent of a US college or university degree in a relevant subject.
If you have been educated outside the US, this requirement can often be met by:
EITHER - A non-US and/or only partly relevant degree, followed by three or more years work experience.
OR – Twelve years of high-level work experience.
NB If you wish to practice a profession such as law, medicine, or accountancy, etc, you will also need to obtain the relevant State or Federal licence to practice in the place of intended employment.
If you would like to find out about the H1B application process from the point of view of your employer, Click here.
The L1 visa is used to transfer to a US parent, affiliate, subsidiary or branch office an employee from a related foreign company. There are two types of L1 visas:
- The L1A for Executive/Managerial staff
- The L1B for Specialist Knowledge staff
- L1 visas are issued for an initial 1 or 3 years.
- L1A visas can be extended to a maximum of 7 years.
- L1B visas can be extended to a maximum of 5 years
You must have worked for the transferring employer outside US for at least one year in the last three.
If you are a manager/executive, you must be going to manage a major subdivision or function of your employer's US operation.
If you are a specialized knowledge worker, you must have in-depth experience of your employer's particular products, processes, procedures and/or practices.
If you would like to find out about the L1 visa application process from the point of view of your employer, Click Here.
These are visas for the employees of companies registered as Treaty Traders or Treaty Investors (i.e. those which undertake substantial trade with, or have made substantial investment in, the USA.)
E visas are now generally issued for an initial period of up to 2 years; they can be renewed indefinitely.
You must be of same nationality as the Treaty Registered employer (i.e. if you work for a UK company, you can only go to the US on an E visa if you are a UK national).
You must be experienced in, and going to undertake, a managerial or executive role OR must have skills or knowledge essential to the operation of the business in the US in order to qualify for the E Treaty Trader or Treaty Investor Visa.
In 2005, the US announced a new visa called the E-3, for Australians only. The E3 visa allows Australian nationals, along with their spouses and children, to come to the US to work in a specialty occupation.
This should be welcome news for Australians interested in working in the US. Until now, Australians have had to battle it out with others around the world for the highly desired H1B Visa. Last year only 900 Australians obtained an H1B - now Australians have 10,500 E3 visas just for themselves. A specialty occupation is one that requires a body of knowledge in a professional field, and at least a bachelor's degree or its equivalent, as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States. For Australians interested in the E3 visa, the process is actually quite similar to the H1B visa. You must first find a job with a company who will then sponsor your visa. There are 10,500 E-3 visas available per year.
Spouses of an E-3 visa holder are permitted to come to the US and work also. A spouse's employment may be in a position other than a specialty occupation.
Exchange visas can be obtained for 18 months through approved J visa programs. The aim of this program is to foster international relations by bringing exchange visitors into the US to acquire skills that can be utilized in their home country. These programs need to be designated by the United States Information Agency. If you wish to work for a short period of time, the easiest method may be on a J-1 exchange visitor visa. However if you wish to apply for a "more permanent" non-immigrant visa at a later date or permanent residence, depending on the scheme, there may be problems. There is a two-year home residency requirement after the J visa program is complete. Please visit the US Department of State's Web site for more details on the types of J visa provided. The web site is http://exchanges.state.gov. In addition the two-year home residency requirement may be waived. For more information of whether you qualify for the waiver visit: US Department of State.
Dependants of personnel with US work visas are not generally allowed to work in the US, unless they can qualify for a US work visa in their own right, and can find a US employer to sponsor them. Dependants can, however, engage in study in the US. The dependants of a US work visa holder obtain their derivative visas at the same time as the main visa holder.
A Visas: Diplomatic Personnel
B Visas: Temporary Tourist/Business Visas
C Visas: Continuous Transit
D Visas: Crewmember Visas
F Visas: Students (academic) Visas
G Visas: International Organization Representatives
- H-1B: Speciality Workers/Fashion Models
- H-2A: Temporary Agricultural Workers
- H-2B: Skilled/Unskilled Workers Provided USCs/LPRs Unavailable
- H-3: Trainees
- H-4: Accompanying Family Members
I Visas: Foreign Media
K Visas: Fiance Visas/Spousal Visas
M Visas: M-1 (vocational) Study Visas/Non-Academic Students
N Visas: Relatives of Employees of International Organizations
O Visas: Aliens with Extraordinary Ability and their Support Team
P Visas: Internationally Recognized Entertainers or Athletes
Q Visas: Cultural Exchange Visas
R Visas: Religious Workers
S Visas: People Who Provide Information to US Law Enforcement Agencies
If you have any queries regarding US employment visas, or wish to engage workpermit.com to process your visa application, please contact us.