Working in the United States

(1) I have a friend who has a company in America and is willing to hire me. Am I likely to get a work visa if I apply at the consulate in my country?

(2) I’m in the U.S.with a student visa and was just offered a job. Could I accept the offer?

(3) My husband obtained a U.S. work visa. Can I work legally if I accompany him?

(4) I am an athlete with numerous international awards and I would like to come to America to train a sport team. Do I have any realistic chances to get a visa or even a green card?

(5) I am the owner of a foreign company that imports U.S.products. I’d like to start a company in the U.S.to continue the import and eventually extend to other fields. Unfortunately I don’t have the $500,000 or $1 million for EB-5 to get a green card investor. Is there any solution to work legally in the U.S. and develop my business?

These are some common situations and the answer depends on the circumstances. Those contemplating such work visas should consult an immigration lawyer for a comprehensive discussion that includes realistic options. Below are the most common work visas with some of their major features.

H-1B (workers in a specialty occupation) is a visa for those who meet cumulatively the following requirements:

  1. Have at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent;
  2. Possess highly specialized theoretical and practical knowledge in the field in which the diploma was obtained;
  3. Have received a job offer from an employer;
  4. The job demands, as the minimum requirement for entry into the profession, that the applicant holds the degree mentioned above and/or a license, if mandatory for that position.

The H-1B visa is granted for a maximum initial period of three years and may be extended for a further period of another 3 years. In limited situations, it may be extended beyond 6 years.

H-2A (Agricultural workers) is the visa that allows U.S. employers to bring foreign workers for temporary work in agriculture, when there are no American workers available, capable, interested and qualified for such work. The visa is granted for up to 1 year and may be extended for up to 2 years.

H-2B (Skilled or unskilled workers) is similar to the above category but the field of employment is non agricultural. It is for temporary jobs for which a shortage of U.S. workers exists.

J-1 (Exchange visitor/student) is a visa for those who wish to participate in an exchange program with the purpose of teaching, study, doing scientific or academic research or to get practice in a specialized area (e.g. a doctor completing the residency in a U.S. hospital). In general, those who fall into such a program are students who work during the summer, au pairs, teachers, doctors, researchers etc.

L-1 (Intra company transferee) is a visa that allows U.S. employers to transfer an employee of its subsidiary in a foreign country provided that the employee possesses highly specialized knowledge in the business of the employer. The visa is granted for a maximum period of three years and can be extended to 5 years. Foreign companies wishing to establish a subsidiary in theU.S. can send an employee to theU.S. to handle the start of operations, situation in which the maximum initial stay is not more than 1 year.

TN (Canadian or Mexican citizens in a professional field) is a visa created under the NAFTA Treaty and is open to those in a professional field such as engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers, researchers, pharmacists, scientists, etc. who are Canadian or Mexican citizens and have a job offer from a U.S. employer. Visa duration is not more than 3 years but can be extended.

E-2 (Investor based on a commercial treaty) Citizens of countries that have a commercial treaty concluded with the U.S are eligible for this type of visa. They must invest capital in a newly created or existing U.S. company in which they hold at least 50% and exercise operational control directly, through a management position. The visa is granted for an initial period of 2 years and can be extended unlimited in increments of 2 years.

P-1 and P-2 (International athletes and artists) is a visa that allows work under a contract with a U.S. employer for a period of one year to maximum 10 years, depending on the specific situation.

O-1 and O-2 (Persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics) is a visa granted for up to 3 years, which can be extended based on circumstances.

I (Representatives of foreign media: TV, radio, press, film or other media) is a temporary visa open to those who want to work in theU.S. as employees of foreign media and film companies (reporters, journalist, editors, documentary film team etc.).

R-1 (Employees of nonprofit religious organizations in the U.S.) is a visa addressed to priests and other members of a bone fide religious denomination (excluding administrative staff). The visa is granted for a maximum of 30 months with possibility of extension for another within 30 months.

Q-1 (International Cultural Exchange visitor) is a visa of interest to U.S. employers who administer international exchange programs focused on culture, and who want to bring in foreign individuals to present the culture, history and traditions of the country they belong to.

Some of the above visas (J-1 or E-2 for instance) allow other family members (husband / wife and unmarried children under 21 years) to work legally in the United States during the stay of the visa holder.

Getting a work visa often involves a complex process and requires the preparation of a well founded case. As the number of visas granted each year is limited for each category, it recommended to check if the year cap has been reached before the application is submitted.

NOTE: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For a detailed analysis of certain situations, those interested are urged to consult a lawyer.

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