There are several types of employment-based visas available to qualified, foreign workers who seek to enter the United States. There are two main types of employment-based visa applications: Temporary Employment Visas and Permanent Employment-Based Immigrant Visas.

A temporary employment visa allows a United States-based employer to hire and petition for a foreigner to come to the United States and work a specific job over a temporary period of time. Temporary employment visa classifications dictate eligibility requirements, duration of employment, and whether dependents (spouse and children) can accompany the foreign worker. The following are different types of temporary employment visa classifications:

H – Temporary Workers

  • H-1B: For someone working in a specialty occupation with a higher education degree or its equivalent.
  • H-2A: For someone from a designated country working a temporary or seasonal agricultural occupation.
  • H-2B: For someone from a designated country working a temporary or seasonal non-agricultural occupation.
  • H-3: For someone coming to the United States to participate in a training program that is unavailable in the person’s home country.

L – Intracompany Transfers

  • L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager: For someone wishing to transfer from a foreign office with a qualifying relationship (i.e., a parent company, subsidiary, or branch) to a United States office that is or will be doing business as an employer. If an office in the United States has not yet been established, the transferee can come to the United States to start a new office.
  • L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge: For someone with specialized knowledge wishing to transfer from a foreign office with a qualifying relationship to a United States office. A foreign worker with specialized knowledge can come to the United States to open a new business.

E – Treaty Trader/Investor

  • E-1 Treaty Trader: For someone from a treaty country wishing to enter the United States to engage in international trade. More than 50% of trading must be between the United States and the treaty country, and the trade must be substantial.
  • E-2 Treaty Investor: For someone from a treaty country wishing to invest a substantial amount of money into a United States business. The investor must have at least 50% ownership of the United States business or operational control through a managerial position.

O – Extraordinary Ability

  • O-1A: For someone who has demonstrated extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics.
  • O-1B: For someone who has demonstrated extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in a motion picture or on television.

P – Athlete, Artist, Performer: For performers wishing to come to the United States to participate in athletics or entertainment. The visa is typically only valid for the duration of the specific event or series of events. 

  • P-1 Internationally Recognized Athlete: For someone who demonstrates an internationally recognized high level of achievement evidenced by a superior level of skill.
  • P-2 Individual Performer or Part of a Group Entering to Perform Under a Reciprocal Exchange Program: For someone wishing to come to the United States to perform as an artist or entertainer under a reciprocal exchange program.

TN – NAFTA Professional: Allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals, to work in the United States in prearranged business activities for United States or foreign employers.

An employer can assist a foreigner in obtaining lawful permanent residency in the United States through an employment opportunity. The process generally includes three steps:

  1. The employer requests certification from the Department of Labor that establishes that there are no qualified United States workers available to fill the desired position at a wage equal to or greater than the prevailing wage for that specific occupation. This is called a Labor Certification.
  2. Once the certification is obtained, the employer files a petition for the foreigner with USCIS.
  3. Once the petition is approved, the foreigner can apply for adjustment of status (if the visa is available) in the United States. If the foreigner is outside of the United States when the petition is approved, he or she can apply for an immigrant visa at the United States Embassy or Consulate. In either situation, the end result is a green card.

 There are five Permanent Employment Visa Preference categories:

  • EB-1: For someone with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors or researchers; and multinational executives and managers. No Labor Certification is required.
  • EB-2: For someone who is a member of a profession that holds an advanced degree or for someone with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business. A Labor Certification is required, unless the applicant obtains a National Interest Waiver.
  • EB-3: For professionals, skilled workers, and other workers. A Labor Certification is required.
  • EB-4: For special immigrants, including religious workers, U.S. foreign service employees, and retired employees of international organizations.
  • EB-5: For business investors who have invested a minimum of $1 million (or $500,000 in a targeted area) in a new commercial enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time United States workers.

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