When applying for a visa with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), eligible foreign nationals have several options available based on different factors, such as education, skills, the position occupied in a company, etc.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to US work visas. Hence, potential applicants must know the options available to decide which one suits their needs best.
Which US Work Visa is Best? – The Essentials
Temporary Nonimmigrant Visas
Temporary nonimmigrant visas permit eligible foreign nationals to work in the United States within a preset, limited period. USCIS has several visa options available for eligible foreign temporary workers, including:
- H-1B visa (Specialty occupations, DOD cooperative research and development project workers, and fashion Models)
- H-2A visa (Temporary agricultural workers)
- H-2B visa (Temporary non-agricultural workers)
- H-3 visa (Nonimmigrant trainee or special education exchange visitors)
- I visa (Representatives of foreign media)
- L-1A visa (Intracompany transferee executive or managers)
- L-1B visa (Intracompany transferees with specialized knowledge)
- O-1 visa (Individuals with extraordinary abilities or achievements)
- P-1A visa (Internationally recognized athletes)
- P-1B visa (Member of internationally recognized entertainment group)
- P-2 visa (Performer or group performing under reciprocal exchange program)
- P-3 visa (Artist or entertainer part of a culturally unique program)
- Q visa (Individuals engaged in cultural exchange)
- R-1 visa (Temporary religious workers)
- TN NAFTA Professionals visa (Eligible workers from Canada and Mexico)
Permanent (Immigrant) Workers
Foreign applicants interested in living and working permanently in the United States must apply for a permanent (immigrant) work visa. According to USCIS, approximately 140,000 immigrant visas are available each fiscal year for eligible foreign nationals based on their job skills.
Obtaining a permanent US work visa requires the combination of several factors, such as eligibility, education, expertise, and personal skill set. Depending on the case, individuals working in the United States under a non-immigrant work visa may adjust their status for a permanent work visa.
Most employment-based visa categories require a job offer from a US employer. Depending on the category, the employer must obtain a labor certification document from the US Department of Labor (DOL), attesting that:
- There are no sufficient US workers available, qualified, and willing to fulfill the position being offered at the prevailing wage
- Hiring the foreign applicant will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed US workers
There are five main categories of permanent (immigrant) work visas with USCIS – the EB-1 (first preference), the EB-2 (second preference), the EB-3 (third preference), the EB-4 (fourth preference), and the EB-5 (fifth preference) visas.
The EB-1 visa applies for eligible foreign nationals who have extraordinary abilities, are outstanding professors or researchers, or occupy certain multinational executive or managerial positions.
The EB-2 visa encompasses foreign applicants who are members of professions holding an advanced degree or equivalent or those who have exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business.
The EB-3 visa encompasses skilled workers, professionals, or other workers who meet the eligibility requirements established by USCIS.
The EB-4 visa applies to eligible special immigrants, such as religious workers and retired officers or employees of a G-4 international organization or NATO-6 civilian employees.
The EB-5 is an investor visa that permits eligible foreign investors to apply for a US green card upon investing the required amount of capital in a US-based commercial enterprise to create or preserve ten permanent full-time jobs for qualified American workers.