There are more than a dozen types of visas that allow foreign nationals to enter and work in the US. Here are the work visa classifications and their basic requirements.
E Visas – E1 And E2 – Treaty Visas
These are for citizens of countries engaged in economic treaties with the US. The E1 is the Treaty Trader visa, granted to individuals who come into the US to conduct “substantial trade”. At least 50 percent of this trade must be between the US and the foreigner’s treaty country. Meanwhile, the E2 is for Treaty Investors – those who have invested in and have at least 50 percent ownership of a US business.
A full list of treaty countries can be found at the US Department of State website.
F-1 – Foreign Academic Student Visa
While this non-immigrant visa is primarily intended to allow foreigners to study in the US, international students have several options for legally working here. The easiest one is on-campus employment. It does not require the approval of the USCIS, but it allows only up to 20 hours of work per week within the school.
An alternative is Optional Practical Training (OPT), which allows off-campus employment for foreigners who are still studying and for those who have already completed their US degree. However, they must obtain USCIS approval, and their employment must be directly related to their studies.
H Visas – H1B, H1C, H2A, H2B, And H3 – Temporary Worker Visa
H1B visas are granted in specialty occupations that require a bachelor’s degree or higher, such as those in the sciences and mathematics. H1C, meanwhile, is for professional nurses. H2A is for seasonal workers in agriculture, while H2B is for seasonal, non-agricultural employees. Finally, H3 visas are for foreigners who work as trainees in programs that are not available in their home countries.
I Visa – Foreign Information Media Representative
Also called a journalist visa or a press visa, this allows media representatives of foreign countries to conduct a temporary function in the US. Examples of allowed travel purposes include covering a news event, filming an educational documentary, or disseminating factual tourist information about their home country.
J1 Visa – Exchange Visitor Visa
Under the Exchange Visitor Program of the United States, foreigners with a J1 visa can take part in an accredited work-and-study arrangement here. J1 visa holders must both study and receive related practical training that is not available in their home country. The types of work-and-study arrangements include those for au pair, summer work, intern, teacher, and physician programs.
K1 Visa – US Citizen’s Fiancé Visa
If an American citizen has a foreign fiancé (or fiancée), they can bring the foreign national to the US for a period of 90 days. The visa-holding fiancé can then apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), also known as a work permit. This permit is also valid for only 90 days from the foreigner’s US entry date.
L1 Visa – Intra-company Transferee Visa
If an American company with international offices wants to bring one of their overseas employees into the US, they can petition for this employee’s L1 visa. This visa type is further categorized into L1A, which is for executive and managerial employees, and L1B, which is for employees with specialized knowledge. To be eligible for either type, the employee must have already worked in the company’s overseas office for at least one year in the last three years.
M1 Visa – Foreign Vocational Student Visa
This is for vocational students – that is, those that are taking non-academic courses in the US. These include technical or mechanical studies, flight school, cooking classes, and language programs. M1 holders can work only after their vocational studies are finished, at which point they can be employed full-time in a role related to their vocation.
O Visas – O1 And O2 – “Extraordinary Ability” Visas
An O1 visa is granted to a foreign national who has an achievement or ability that has gained widespread acclaim. Examples are scientists, educators, artists, businesspersons, and athletes. The O2 visa is for those who will accompany them as staff.
Their travel purpose in the US must be to work in their area of ability, and thus, an American employer must petition for their visa. The application also typically involves a consultation, in which an expert gives an opinion to the USCIS regarding the “extraordinary ability” of the foreigner.
P Visas – P1, P2, And P3 – Performers In A US Program
These visas are for foreign artists, athletes, and entertainers who will perform their talents in the US as part of a program. P1 is issued to individuals and teams who will participate in a competition, P2 is for those who are part of a reciprocal exchange program, and P3 is for those who are part of a cultural program.
Q Visas – Q1 And Q2 – Cultural Exchange Visitor Visas
The Q1 visa is granted to foreign participants in an international cultural exchange program with the US. Practical training, employment, and tradition-sharing are typical inclusions in such programs. Similarly, the Q2 visa allows training and employment, but only for citizens of Northern Ireland and certain counties of Ireland. This visa program is also called the Walsh Program, created under the Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act.
R1 Visa – Temporary Religious Worker For A Non-Profit
Ministers, religious professionals, and religious workers are covered by this visa, which allows them to conduct their work in the US for up to five years. The term “minister” applies only to those who are authorized by a recognized denomination – it does not include lay preachers. Likewise, “professionals” and “workers” in religion may include monks, nuns, instructors, missionaries, broadcasters, and the like, but not workers whose occupations are not rooted on religion per se.
TN Visa – Trade NAFTA Visa
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has recently changed its name to US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), aims for better flow of trade between these countries. Thus, professionals from Canada and Mexico may come into the US for a work engagement, and their visa processing is expedited. Canadians may obtain TN status at the US port of entry in as fast as 15 minutes. Mexican nationals, on the other hand, will need to interview first with their US Embassy or Consulate.
Don’t hesitate to consult a lawyer if you have questions about working legally in the US. We at Richards & Jurusik can competently guide you with knowledgeable and clear answers. Call us today at 1-866-697-1832.