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There are many temporary immigration categories that allow foreign nationals to engage in employment in the United States. These employment visas are for people looking to work in the United States for a fixed period of time.

Most often, a potential employer files a petition for this type of work with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before coming to the United States the employee would still need to apply for a visa. Please note, that spouses and family of holders of these employment visas must file for their own visas prior to coming to the U.S.

H-1B Visa

This visa is for people in specific professions or academic fields or with special expertise with the equivalent of a United States bachelor's degree or a higher equivalent in work experience. The residency period for H-1B visas is generally three (3) years.

Eligibility for an H-1B includes:

  • A job offer from a U.S. employer for a role that requires specialty knowledge
  • Proof of a bachelor's degree or equivalent in that field
  • Your employer must show that there is a lack of qualified U.S. applicants for the role

Some important things to note with the H-1B visa include:

  • An employee who is presently employed in H1B status may utilize the portability provisions of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act (AC21) to transition their H-1B to a different employer.
  • The spouse and minor children (under the age of 21) of an H-1B employee are authorized to live in the United States in H-4 status, and to study, but are not permitted to work.

Other H visas include:

  • H-2A visas are tailored for seasonal, or peak load, and temporary workers in agriculture
  • H-2B is tailored for non-agricultural settings.
  • H-3 visas are tailored for individuals seeking training in any endeavor except graduate medical school or training; or training to meet the needs of those who require special education. It is designed for individuals who wish to fulfill their training within the United States but will actually apply that training and pursue their careers outside of the United States.


As a representative of foreign media, you cannot travel to the United States and engage in your profession without an I nonimmigrant visa, even if you are a citizen of a country that participates in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

I-Visas are for eligible members of the foreign press including:

  • reporters
  • film crews
  • editors

Similar occupations that represent a foreign media outlet such as print, radio, film, or other foreign information media are also eligible for this visa if the outlet has a home office in a foreign country.

These are usually indefinite visas as long as the holder is engaged in this profession for the same company. Any spouse and children under the age of 21 may accompany or follow to join an I nonimmigrant.

You can apply for an I visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence. The Department of State establishes visa application processing and issuance fees.


L Visas are tailored for individuals who are temporarily transferring within a company at which they already work, either at the executive/management level.

L-1A Visa

The L-1A nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.

Please note, that while the business must be viable, there is no requirement that it be engaged in international trade.

The company must continue operations for the duration of your visa, and the visa holder should expect to be transferred back upon return. In case the foreign employer closes, the U.S. employer must have a related foreign company to which the L-1 visa holder could theoretically be transferred.

The L-1A comes with a three (3) year duration.

L-1B Visa

The L-1B nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer a professional employee with specialized knowledge relating to the organization's interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.

The L-1B comes with a one (1) year duration.

L-1 Qualifications

Qualifications for an L-1 classification require that an employer must:

  • Have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations); and
  • Currently, be, or will to be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary's stay in the United States as an L-1.

O Visas

The O-1 visa is granted to individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement, who have reached the top of their field. This can be either in the arts, sciences, athletics, business, film, television, or education. Extraordinary ability in the fields of science, education, business, or athletics means a level of expertise indicating that you are one of the small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field.

Timing is always key with immigration issues, as such, your employer or agent cannot file the petition more than one (1) year before they actually need your services. To avoid delays, your employer or agent should file your Form I-129 at least forty-five (45) days before the date of employment.

O-1 visa grantees may also bring their loved ones through the O-3 category or an assistant needed for a particular event through the O-2 category.

P Visas

P Visas are for those who excel in performance, athletic, or artistic endeavors and those who accompany these extraordinary performers. These are usually event-based durations.

P-1A Athlete

The P-1A classification is tailored to individuals who are coming to the United States temporarily and solely for the purpose of performing at a specific athletic competition as:

  • An individual athlete at an internationally recognized level of performance;
  • Part of a group or team at an internationally recognized level of performance;
  • A professional athlete; or
  • An athlete or coach, as part of a team or franchise that is located in the United States and a member of a foreign league or association.

The P-1A classification also applies to professional or amateur athletes coming temporarily to the United States solely to perform in a specific theatrical ice skating production or tour, individually or as part of a group.

P-1B Member of an Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group

The P-1B classification applies to you if you are coming to the United States temporarily to perform as a member of an entertainment group that has been established for a minimum of one year and recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time.

Note, the spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of a P-1B holder may obtain P-4 status. They may not engage in employment but may attend school or college.

R-1 Visas

R-1 Visas are extended to non-immigrant religious workers who are members of a religious denomination that holds official non-profit status in the United States and coming to work either directly for that denomination or an associated non-profit.

An R-1 nonimmigrant is a noncitizen who is coming to the United States temporarily to work at least part-time (an average of at least 20 hours per week) as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation and be employed by a:

  • Non-profit religious organization in the United States;
  • Religious organization that is authorized by a group tax exemption holder to use its group tax exemption; or
  • Non-profit organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States.

To qualify, you must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least two years immediately before filing the petition.

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may grant R-1 status for an initial period of admission for up to thirty (30) months and subsequent extensions for up to an additional thirty (30) months. However, your total period of stay in the United States in R-1 classification cannot exceed five years (60 months).


The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. The TN nonimmigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level.

Professionals who are eligible to seek admission as TN nonimmigrants are accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers.

Eligibility for TN nonimmigrant status includes:

  • You are a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
  • Your profession qualifies under the regulations;
  • The position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional;
  • You have a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer (but not self-employment - see documentation required below); and
  • You have the qualifications to practice in the profession in question.

The United States is home to some of the best colleges and universities in the world and every year the United States attracts talented individuals from across the world looking to achieve higher education. Visas for students include F-1 for academic students, M-1 for vocational students, and J-1 for exchange students. See below for a breakdown of the differences.



The F-1 visa serves the purpose of allowing a student to temporarily live in the United States for a defined period of time while studying at a school, college, seminary, or conservatory. The academic institution in which you have been accepted and plan on attending must be approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) through the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP). Basically, it needs to be accredited to be able to accept foreign students on F-1 visas.

The good news is that you will be able to work, but because this is a nonimmigrant visa, so, there will be restrictions on where you can work and the type of work. Lastly, your spouse and children can come with you, however, they will not be permitted to work, but your children can enroll in schools. Your children and spouse will be on F-2 visas and linked to your visa status.

The requirements for an F-1 visa are the following:

  • Apply and be accepted into a course of study at a SEVP-approved school in the United States. These can include high schools, seminaries, private elementary schools, conservatories, or a language program.
  • Be enrolled as a full-time student
  • Be proficient in English or enrolled at an institution learning English to become proficient
  • Proof of enough funds to support your education
  • Demonstrate ties to your home country to show an intent to return
  • Living outside the United States when applying



The M-1 visa serves the purpose of allowing a foreign student to study full-time at a technical, vocational, or other nonacademic program in the United States. In order to apply for an M-1 visa, you must satisfy the following criteria:

  • You must be enrolled, as a full-time student, in a vocational or other non-academic program
  • You must have a high level of proficiency in English, or enrolled in English-language classes
  • Proof of financial self-sufficiency for the duration of your stay
  • Proof you have a residence outside the United States
  • Your program must be approved by the Student and Exchange Visitors Program



The J-1 visa serves the purpose of allowing nonimmigrants to travel to the United States as part of an officially approved exchange program in the arts, education, or sciences. Beneficiaries of a J-1 typically include professors, researchers, students, teachers, au pairs, or specialists of various kinds. J-1 students must be accepted in a program that has been approved by the United States Department of State.

J-1 visa classification incorporates a number of different categories of visitors, so, the specific requirements may differ. However, all programs do require the following:

  • Ability to demonstrate that one has a residence in a foreign country that they have no intention of abandoning
  • A Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (Form DS-2019) obtained from the program sponsor
  • Demonstrate sufficient knowledge of English