What is a Work Visa?
A work visa is essentially a document that authorizes you as a foreign citizen to travel to the United States for the purpose of paid or unpaid employment. There are several types of US work visas you can apply for. Which one you select depends on several factors including if you are seeking temporary employment or permanent employment in the US.
Temporary work visa applicants can choose from visa categories such as:
- H-1B Visas – A temporary work visa category for those who work in a specialty occupation. The H-1B visa is the most popular temporary work visa category. To apply, you must have a position requiring specialized knowledge, a higher education degree, or extraordinary ability in your field of work.
- H-2A Visas – If you are a temporary agricultural worker who would like to perform seasonal agricultural work in the US, and H-2A visa may be right for you.
- E1 and E2 Visas – A visa category for Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors.
- L Visas – For intra-company transfers.
- O Visas – A temporary work visa for those with extraordinary abilities.
- NAFTA Work Visas – NAFTA visas honor the free trade agreement between Canada, Mexico, and the US.
- P Visas – A visa category for entertainers and performers.
- R-1 Visas – A visa category for temporary nonimmigrant religious workers.
In addition to these temporary work visa categories, you can also apply for an employment-based green card or a permanent work visa if you wish to work for your employer abroad continuously.
International students and students in a reciprocal exchange program may be able to work in some capacity.
Work Visa Application Procedures
Once you identify the type of work visa you should pursue, then it is time to apply. Most often foreign workers will need a sponsoring employer in order to begin the work visa application process. This means your first step is to receive a job offer from a qualifying US company.
Students who attend university in the US may already have connections with potential sponsors. Other job seekers can search job databases that show US companies that have programs in place to sponsor foreign citizens for qualifying jobs.
In general, the steps of the work visa application process are:
- For a petition-based visa, you must first receive a job offer or employment contract from a prospective employer. Qualifying employers typically must have received a labor certification from the United States Department of Labor (DOL.)
- The employer files a petition on your behalf
- Gather your supporting documents
- Once you have an approved petition, you may file your work visa application form with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and pay the visa issuance fee. Retain the confirmation page for your supporting documents.
- If you receive a request for further evidence, respond by the deadline given
Different categories of work visas have different eligibility requirements and supporting documents. Generally, you will need to have a valid passport, an employment contract, and varying evidence of your claim for the visa. In some cases, you may need to attend an in-person visa interview.
Citizens of the UK can enter the United States temporarily without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). However, if you are planning to change your status once in the US, you are not permitted to do so under the VWP. It is important to determine what your goals are for your time in the US so that you can apply and enter the United States under the correct category of visa.
Processing Times For Work Visas In the US
Processing times for work visas are broken into two general categories.
Temporary worker visas – generally take five to seven months to process.
Employment-based green cards – generally take anywhere from six to thirty-three months to process.
Processing times can be affected by a number of factors, including the workload of the USCIS, your priority date number, and the number of visa applicants from your country.
The most common reason for unnecessarily delayed or rejected work visa applications is incomplete or inaccurate information or missing documentation.
If your US work visa application is missing some required evidence or information, you will receive a notification from the USCIS with a deadline by which to respond.
In some cases, if you do not respond by the deadline with the requested information, your application will automatically be denied.
Benefits of a US Work Visa
Temporary workers and work visa holders in the US have many benefits, although the work visa does have limits that are important to understand. With a US work visa, you have permission to live and work in the United States under the terms of your visa. You also receive automatic rights and protections in the US such as the rights to:
- Be paid fairly by your employer according to US law
- Not be forced to work in a job against your will
- Hold your passport and other identification documents in your possession
- Report abusive working conditions without the fear of retaliation
- Request assistance from a union, labor rights organization, or immigrant rights organization
In some cases, with a US work visa you can also:
- Open a US-based bank account
- Apply for some types of loans
- Attend business seminars, conferences, and some types of further education programs such as practical training programs
Having a US work visa can make it easier to find an apartment or house rental as a temporary worker.
It is important to remember that you may only work in the US for the employer you were approved to work for in your original visa application. If you wish to change employers in the same visa category while in the US, you should consult a law firm to help you navigate and prevent you from violating the terms of your visa.
How Can Total Law Help?
With Total Law, quality immigration services are provided by our team of professional immigration lawyers who can help you to navigate your visa options and assist you in applying for the appropriate work visa for your situation.
Your Total Law advisor will provide you with up-to-date advice on USCIS standards for work visa applications and ensure you have the information you need for a successful application.
For further information, contact us today at 0333 305 9375 or use our online contact form to get in touch with our team of qualified immigration lawyers.
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Temporary workers may be able to apply to adjust their temporary status to obtain a green card, provided they meet certain eligibility requirements. In order to do this you will need to file an immigrant petition, the permanent residency form, attend a biometrics appointment, and in some cases go to an in-person interview. You may need to submit additional supporting documents to support your claim for a green card based on employment.
Typically it takes about three to six months for employment-based visas to be processed by the USCIS once you submit them. In some cases, your US employer may be able to expedite your application with a premium processing service. Temporary visas are most often delayed due to inaccurate or incomplete information.
When in the US on an employment-based visa, you may become eligible to apply for permanent residence. Once you have been in the United States for a qualifying period of time under permanent resident status, then you may pursue citizenship.
An immigrant visa is designed for a foreign national who intends to live and work in the United States permanently. A temporary work visa is considered a non-immigrant visa and is typically valid for up to three years.