Work Visa

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FAQ

Overview

If you want to work in the U.S. temporarily as a nonimmigrant, under U.S. immigration law, you need a specific visa based on the type of work you will be doing. Most temporary worker categories require that your prospective employer or agent file a petition, which must be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States before you can apply for a work visa.

All applicants for H, L, O, P and Q visas must have a petition approved on their behalf by USCIS. The petition, Form I-129, must be approved before you can apply for a work visa at the U.S. Embassy. When your petition is approved, your employer or agent will receive a Notice of Action, Form I-797, which serves as your petition's approval notification. The consular officer will verify your petition approval through the Department of State's Petition Information Management Service (PIMS) during your interview.

You must bring your I-129 petition receipt number to your interview at the U.S. Embassy in order to verify your petition's approval. Please note that approval of a petition does not guarantee issuance of a visa if you are found to be ineligible for a visa under U.S. immigration law.

Visa Descriptions and Qualifications

E-3 (specialty occupation)

The E-3 visa classification applies only to nationals of Australia as well as their spouses and children. E-3 principal applicants must be going to the United States solely to work in a specialty occupation. The spouse and children need not be Australian citizens. However the U.S. does not recognize De Facto relationships for the purposes of immigration, and to qualify as a spouse you will need a marriage certificate.

H-1B (specialty occupation)

An H-1B visa is required if you are coming to the United States to perform services in a pre-arranged professional job. To qualify, you must hold a bachelor's or higher degree (or an equivalent degree) in the specific specialty for which you seek employment. USCIS will determine whether your employment constitutes a specialty occupation and whether you are qualified to perform the services. Your employer is required file a labor condition application with the Department of Labor concerning the terms and conditions of its contract of employment with you.

H1-B1 Treaty-based Temporary Work Visas

Free trade agreements signed with Chile and Singapore permit qualified Chilean and Singaporean citizens to temporarily work in the United States in certain circumstances. Only Chilean and Singaporean citizens are eligible as principal applicants, although their spouses and children may be nationals of other countries.

Applicants for H-1B1 visas should already have a job offer from an employer in their chosen work area in the United States, but the employer does not have to file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and the applicant does not need to obtain a Notice of Approval, Form I-797 form before submitting the visa application. However, the petitioner does need to file an Application for Foreign Labor Certification with the Department of Labor prior to applying for the visa.  For more information on the H-1B1 visa, please visit https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/employment/temporary-worker-visas.html

H-2A (seasonal agricultural workers)

An H-2A visa allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs for which U.S. workers are not available. An H-2A nonimmigrant classification applies to you if you seek to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature in the United States on a temporary basis. A U.S. employer (or an association of U.S. agricultural producers named as a joint employer) must file a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, on your behalf.

H-2B visa (skilled and unskilled workers)

This visa is required if you are coming to the United States to perform a job which is temporary or seasonal in nature and for which there is a shortage of U.S. workers. Your employer is required to obtain a Department of Labor certification confirming that there are no qualified U.S. workers eligible for the type of employment on which your petition is based.

H-3 (trainee)

An H-3 visa is required if you are coming to the United States to receive training from an employer in any field of endeavor, other than graduate education or training, for a period of up to two years. You can be paid for your training and "hands-on" work is authorized. Training cannot be used to provide productive employment and cannot be available in your home country.

H-4 (dependents)

If you are the principal holder of a valid H visa, your spouse or unmarried children (under age 21) may receive an H-4 visa to accompany you to the United States. However, your spouse/children are not permitted to work while in the United States.

L-1 (intra-company transferees)

An L-1 visa is required if you are the employee of an international company which is temporarily transferring you to a parent branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the same company in the United States. The international company may be either a U.S. or foreign organization. To qualify for an L-1 visa, you must be at the managerial or executive level, or have specialized knowledge and be destined to a position within the U.S. company at either of these levels, although not necessarily in the same position as held previously. In addition, you must have been employed outside the United States with the international company continuously for one year within the three years preceding your application for admission into the United States. You may only apply for an L-1 visa after your U.S. company or affiliate has received an approved petition from USCIS, either on a "blanket" or individual basis.

L-2 (dependents)

If you are the principal holder of a valid L visa, your spouse or unmarried children (under age 21) may receive this derivative visa. Due to a recent change in the law, your spouse may seek employment authorization. Your spouse must enter the United States on his or her own L-2 visa and then submit a completed Form I-765 (obtainable from USCIS), along with an application fee. Your children are not authorized to work in the United States.

O (alien with extraordinary ability)

Class O visas are issued to people with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business and athletics, or extraordinary achievement in motion picture and television production, and their essential support personnel.

P (artists, entertainers)

Class P visas are issued to certain athletes, entertainers, artists and essential support personnel who are coming to perform in the United States.

Q (cultural exchange visitor)

A Q visa is required if you are traveling to the United States to participate in an international cultural exchange program for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of your home country. You must have a petition filed on your behalf by the program sponsor and the petition must be approved by USCIS.

T (victim of trafficking)

Foreign citizens seeking T-1 nonimmigrant status must be physically present in the United States already, due to human trafficking. Therefore, U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad (outside the United States) do not issue T-1 visas, but may issue qualifying family members T (derivative) visas.

TD/TN (NAFTA professional)

The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals, to work in the United States in prearranged business activities for U.S. or foreign employers.

U (victim of criminal activity)

Victims of certain criminal activities that either occurred in the United States or violated U.S. laws may be eligible to petition for U nonimmigrant status to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Victims must have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the criminal activity and possess information concerning that criminal activity.

When to Apply

The U.S. Embassy may process your H, L, O, P or Q visa application up to 90 days prior to the beginning of employment status as noted on your I-797. However, when making your travel plans, please note that due to Federal regulations, you can only use the visa to apply for entry to the United States starting ten days prior to the beginning of the approved status period noted on your I-797.

Application Items

If you apply for an E-3, H, L, O, P, Q, T, TD/TN or U visa, you must submit the following:

  • A Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) Form. Visit the DS-160 web page for more information about the DS-160.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person desiring a visa must submit an application.
  • Passport containing the most recently issued U.S. Visa (if applicable).
  • One (1) 2"x2" (5cmx5cm) photograph taken within the last six months. This web page has information about the required photo format.
  • A receipt (appointment confirmation) showing payment of your US$190 non-refundable nonimmigrant visa application processing fee paid in local currency. This web page has more information about paying this fee. If a visa is issued, there may be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, depending on your nationality. The Department of State's website can help you find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.
  • Accompanying family members, unless entering the United States for another purpose, should present an original marriage certificate (spouse) and/or birth certification (for unmarried children under 21), as applicable.
  • Foreigners living in Switzerland or Liechtenstein should include their residency permit, border crossing card, or Carte de Légitimation.
  • Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129 and Form I-797, from USCIS.
  • If you are an L-1 applicant on a blanket petition, you must pay a fraud prevention and detection fee (more information about this fee is here). Please bring $500 cash or a credit card as well as your L Visa Blanket petition – If you are included in an L blanket petition, you must bring three copies of the Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition, to your interview.
  • H1B applicants need to provide the Department of Labor certificate and proof of education level.
  • The receipt number printed on your approved I-129 petition. Paper copies of the I-797 are not required at the interview.

In addition to these items, you must present an appointment confirmation letter (with two barcodes) confirming that you booked an appointment through this service. You may also bring whatever supporting documents you believe support the information provided to the consular officer.

Many visa types require additional documents. Please see the supporting documents section below.

How to Apply

Step 1

Complete the Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) form.

Step 2

Pay the visa application fee.

Step 3

Schedule your appointment on this web page. You will need the following information in order to schedule your appointment:

  • Your passport number
  • The CGI reference number from your Visa Fee receipt. (Click here if you need help finding this number.)
  • The ten (10) digit barcode number from your DS-160 confirmation page
Step 4

Visit the U.S. Embassy on the date and time of your visa interview. You must bring a printed copy of your appointment letter, your DS-160 confirmation page, one photograph taken within the last six months and your current and all old passports. Applications without all of these items will not be accepted.

Supporting Documents

In addition to these items, you must present an interview appointment letter confirming that you booked an appointment through this service. You may also bring whatever supporting documents you believe support the information provided to the consular officer.

Caution: Do not present false documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in permanent visa ineligibility. If confidentiality is a concern, you should bring your documents to the U.S. Embassy in a sealed envelope. The U.S. Embassy will not make your information available to anyone and will respect the confidentiality of your information.

Consular officers look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors during adjudication. Consular officers may look at your specific intentions, family situation, and your long-range plans and prospects within your country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.

If you apply for an E-3 visa, you must also submit the following:

  • Form ETA 9035, clearly annotated as "E3 - Australia - to be processed." Note: This form is the notification of an approved Labor Condition Application (LCA) that the U.S. employer obtains from the Department of Labor (DOL).
  • A job offer letter with salary specifications from the U.S.-based employer, indicating that the applicant will be engaged in a specialty occupation.
  • Foreigners living in Switzerland or Liechtenstein should include their residency permit, border crossing card, or Carte de Légitimation.
  • A certified copy of the foreign degree and evidence that it is equivalent to the required U.S. degree or a certified copy of a U.S. baccalaureate or higher degree, as required by the specialty occupation.
  • A certified copy of any required license or other official permission to practice the occupation in the state of intended employment. If licensure is not immediately necessary upon admission, the applicant will need evidence that the required license will be obtained within a reasonable time after admission.

Dependents

Your dependents should bring all required documents for any nonimmigrant visa, plus:

An original marriage (for your spouse) and/or birth certificate (for unmarried children under 21), as applicable.

More Information

For more information visit the Department of State's Temporary Workers webpage.