Questions About U.S. Work Visas
What is a work or employment visa?
A work or employment visa allows you to enter the U.S. to work. Typically, a person must have a job offer from a U.S. employer to be eligible for a work visa.
What is the difference between a work visa, green card, work permit, and social security card?
What are the different types of U.S. work visas?
E-3 Australian Work Visa
E-3 visas are nonimmigrant visas issued to Australian nationals to perform work in specialty occupations. Examples of specialty occupations are: architects, computer professionals, dietitians, economists, engineers, lawyers and teachers.
To be eligible, you must have a higher education degree, or its equivalent, and a job offer from a U.S. employer. The more qualified and specialized you are, the easier it will for you to receive an E-3 visa.
Learn more about E-3 visas.
H1-B Specialty Work
H1-B Specialty Work Visas are nonimmigrant visas issued for work in specialty occupations. Architects, computer professionals, dietitians, economists, engineers, lawyers and teachers are all examples of specialty occupations.
To be eligible, you must have a higher education degree, or its equivalent, and a job offer from a U.S. employer. However, if you do not have a degree but have acquired similar skills after working for several years in a specialty occupation, you may also be eligible. The more qualified and specialized you are, the easier it will for you to receive an H-1B work visa.
H1-B workers are eligible to apply for a U.S. green card. Learn more about H1-B visas.
H-2B Seasonal (Nonagricultural) Worker Visa
H2-B Seasonal Worker Visas are nonimmigrant visas offered for temporary, irregular, or seasonal work. Jobs that are needed on a "one-time" basis or to help a company during moments of heavy activity also qualify. To get an H-2B visa, the position cannot be in agriculture or farming. Working at a hotel during the busy summer season or helping in the construction of a single building project are both examples of jobs that will likely meet H-2B requirements. To be eligible for an H-2B visa you must also be a national of a qualifying country. Learn more about H2-B visas.
H-3 Trainee or Special Education Exchange Visa
H-3 Trainee or Special Education Exchange Visas are nonimmigrant visas that allow you to travel to the U.S. for training. The main goal of this visa is to receive training in the U.S. that you will later use in your home country. To qualify, the training cannot be available in your home country or related to graduate medical studies. During the application process, an immigration officer will ask you to show that you intend to return to your home country after the program is completed.
The Special Education Exchange Visitors program is for people who wish to receive educational training for children with physical, mental or emotional disabilities (special education). To be eligible for an H-3 visa of this type you must be currently studying for a degree in special education, have a degree in special education, or have years of experience teaching special education.
Learn more about H-3 visas.
J-1 Temporary Exchange Program Visa
J-1 Temporary Exchange Program Visas are nonimmigrant visas that allow you to participate in a cultural exchange program in the U.S. To be eligible, you must have enough money to cover the costs of your trip, be able to afford medical insurance, and know basic English. The J-1 programs are:
- Secondary school, college or university student
- Camp counselor
- Summer student in a travel/work program
- Trainee or intern
- Nonacademic specialist
- Professor, research or short-term scholar
- Foreign physician
- International or government visitor
Learn more about J-1 visas.
L-1 Intra-Company Transfer Work Visa
L-1 Intra-Company Transfer Work Visas are nonimmigrant visas that allow people who work for international companies to transfer to a U.S. branch of their company. To be eligible, you must work in a managerial, executive or specialty occupation position. You are not eligible for this visa if you are self-employed. Learn more about L-1 visas.
O-1 Extraordinary Ability Worker Visa
O-1 Extraordinary Ability Worker Visas are nonimmigrant visas for individuals who possess great talent in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, or the motion picture or television industry. Note that the terms "arts" also includes "culinary arts", and essential personnel in the art field such as: directors, set designers, choreographers, orchestrators, coaches, arrangers, costume designers, make-up artists, state technicians and animal trainers.
To be eligible, you must be able to show you have been nationally or internationally recognized in your field with evidence such as awards or membership to a relevant professional organization. Learn more about O-1 visas.
R-1 Religious Worker Visa
R-1 Religious Worker Visas are issued for temporary employment as a minister or other religious occupation at a non-profit religious organization or an organization which is affiliated with a religion in the U.S.
To be eligible, you must be a minister or a religious worker. Learn more about R-1 visas.
NAFTA Work Visa
Citizens of Canada and Mexico may be eligible for NAFTA Professional (TN) Nonimmigrant status if they work in a qualifying profession. TN status is very similar to H-1B status. To be eligible, you must have a higher education degree, or its equivalent, and a job offer from a U.S. employer. However, if you do not have a degree but have acquired similar skills after working for several years in a specialty occupation, you may also be eligible. Learn more about NAFTA work visas.
How do I apply for a U.S. work visa
Step 1: Determine which U.S. work visa you should apply for.
There are several types of U.S. work visas, the most popular being H1-B, H2-B, H-3, J-1, L-1, O-1 and R-1. Your occupation and length of stay will determine which visa you should apply for.
The eligibility requirements for each work visa type are different. Generally, you will be required to have an offer of employment from a U.S. employer to be eligible. In the case of the J-1 exchange visa, you will have to be enrolled in a qualifying program.
If applying for a nonimmigrant work visa, a U.S. employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker before you can apply for a visa. The J-1 visa does not require this form.
If applying for a nonimmigrant work visa, complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application.
If you are under the age of 14 or over the age of 79, you are not required to have an interview.
You will be required to bring the following documents to your visa interview:
- A passport that is valid for at least six months past your planned date of departure
- The confirmation page from your Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Application
- Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before the interview
The U.S. embassy or consulate where your interview will take place may request you provide additional documentation, such as evidence of:
- The purpose of your trip
- Your intent to leave the U.S. after your trip
- Your ability to pay all the costs of your trip
The visa interview will take place at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country where you live. You will be interviewed by a consular officer who will determine if you are qualified to receive a visa. He or she will review your documentation and visa application, ask you questions about your personal history and the reason for your trip to the U.S.
If the consular officer approves you for a visa, he or she will take your passport and have a visa placed in it. When your passport with visa is ready, you will notified to pick it up or it will be sent to you.
Depending on your nationality, you may have to pay a visa issuance fee if your visa is approved.
How do I extend a U.S. work visa?
If you are in the U.S. on an employment-based visa (E-3, H-1B, H-2B, H-3, L-1, O-1, R-1 or NAFTA), your employer must file Form I-129, Petition for Immigrant Worker before your visa expires. Your visa's expiration date will be noted either on a stamp in your passport or on your Form I-94.
If you are in the U.S. on a J-1 exchange visa, you should contact the responsible officer of your program for information on how to extend your stay.