A General Introduction to US work visas
If you are not certain about what you need to do, or what type of USA visa to apply for, when bringing a non-US national to work for you, don't worry – this is entirely normal. There are almost 60 different types of temporary US visas in addition to several routes to permanent residence (known as 'the green card'). This guide will not make you an expert on USA visas, and is no substitute for professional advice, but it should make you familiar with the territory.
This on-line guide limits itself to the most commonly used visas for professional staff. If you have a query about another visa type, please contact us.
If you have not researched this area before, you may be thinking in terms of getting a 'green card' for your staff. Unfortunately, 'green card' applications usually take a long time, so even if this is the ultimate goal, you will probably need to begin by applying for a temporary work visa. Once the candidate arrives in the US on the USA visa, you can begin working on the long term project of arranging 'the green card'.
If you are going to need someone for less than six months, a sensible first question is – can the work be done by someone on a visitor's visa (or visa-waiver), or will I need to get a 'proper' work visa? Visit visas in the US are called B1 or B2 visas, and we have a section dealing with them in the index.
The other 'easy way out' is if the candidate you want to hire is a Canadian. Treaties between the US and Canada mean that it is far easier to get a work visa if the candidate is Canadian. Unfortunately, Canada suffers from many of the same skills shortages as the US, so you will probably need to look at the 'mainstream' visa types for non-Canadian citizens.
Concerning the US work visa, there are three main categories for professionals. The H1B visa is probably the most famous – or rather 'infamous' given the constant battles in Congress over the controversial issue of how large the H1B quota should be. If it were not for the fact that these quotas can run out rather early in the fiscal year, then the H1B visa would probably be the most useful type of US work visa as virtually any US enterprise can use it for either hires or intra-group transfers.
The problem of H1B quotas means that you will probably want to familiarize yourself with the other main type of visa used to bring alien workers into the US. This is the L1 US work visa; these visas can be used to transfer staff who have been employed for at least one year in the last three by your parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies outside the US.
The index of this guide aims to be self-explanatory; once you know what visa type you want, if you click on the 'I want to apply' link, you will be taken to a page which shows
- A simple flow diagram outlining the process
- An on-line form which can be sent to workpermit.com
When an on-line form is received by workpermit.com, we will conduct a free assessment. If we don't think that the application will succeed, we will advise you of this. If, as is hoped, the application is assessed as likely to succeed, we will be in a position to proceed without delay once we have your confirmed instructions.
The table below provides an 'at a glance' summary.
|B1||Business Visitor||For business people making sales, conducting negotiations, attending meetings and seeking investments.||6 months|
|H1B||Speciality Occupation Worker||For individuals having the equivalent of a US bachelor degree (Foreign degrees and/or work experiencemay be found to be equivalent to a US bachelor degree).||6 Years|
|L1A||Intra Company Transferee||For executives or managers who have worked for at least one year in the past three for a foreign parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch office of the US company that will employ them.||7 Years|
|For specialized knowledge employees who have worked for at least one year in the past three for a foreign parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch office of the proposed US employer.||5 Years|
|E1||Treaty Trader||For staff to direct and develop import / export trade between the US and the treaty country.||Indefinite (2 - year increments)|
|E2||Treaty Investor||For staff to direct and develop investments made in the US by a treaty country national/company||Indefinite (2 - year increments)|
|Permanent residence||First Preference Priority Worker||For international managers and executives. Also for aliens with extraordinary ability and outstanding Professors/Researchers.||Permanent|
|Permanent residence||Second Preference Priority Worker||Professionals with advanced degrees or those with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business.||Permanent|
|Permanent Residence||Third Preference Worker||Professionals with basic degrees, and skilled workers. Also "other workers" who have less than two years of relevant experience.||Permanent|
|'TN1'||Canadian Professional||For Canadian professionals and managers.||Indefinite (1 year increments)|
There are dozens of other visa categories that may be used by those in particular circumstances. Unfortunately, we cannot cover them all in this guide (or it would end up as large as the standard reference guide to US Immigration; the standard reference book in this area of the law takes up more than two feet of bookshelf space). However, if you call workpermit.com an advisor will be able to cover any areas that have been omitted from this publication.