Immigration law can seem like a foreign language, even to lawyers. Here is a basic overview of visas available for employment purposes in the United States. Visas which permit employment in the United States generally fall into two different categories: nonimmigrant visas, where the stay in the United States is relatively short-term (generally a six year maximum), and immigrant visas, in which the immigrant becomes a permanent resident, with no timetable for leaving the United States. In order to be granted an employment visa - either permanent or temporary - your U.S. employer must petition on your behalf. The most common issues in employment visas include: PERM Labor Certifications - A necessary step to hiring someone on an employment visa; H-1B visas - Visas for highly skilled, usually technical employees; Outstanding Researcher visas - commonly used in STEM and academic fields; and Visas for Investors - Visas for those investing significant sums in the United States.
Permanent Residence Visas
For immigrant workers, the application involves completing Form I-140. Every year, hundreds of thousands of individuals apply for visas in order to move to the Unites States for employment purposes. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants 140,000 employment visas every year for aliens and their families. The immigrant visas, seeking permanent residence, are split into five different categories based on an individual's work skills. They are as follows: First-Preference EB-1 Visa Persons with extraordinary abilities in science, art, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors or researchers; and multinational executives and managers. Second-Preference EB-2 Visa Members of the professions holding advanced degrees and persons with exceptional ability in the arts, sciences, or business. Third-Preference EB-3 Visa Professionals, skilled workers, and other workers. Fourth-Preference EB-4 Visa Special immigrants including religious workers, employees of U.S. foreign service posts, retired employees of international organizations, alien minors who are wards of courts in the U.S., and others. Fifth-Preference EB-5 Visa Business investors who invest $1 million, or $500,000 if the investment is made in a targeted employment area, in a new commercial enterprise that employs at least ten full-time U.S. workers.
Temporary Employment Visas
For Non-immigrants considering temporary employment, filing an I-129 form is required. There are many different visas available. This is just a quick summary.
B-1 Visa This temporary business visa allows for business consulting; travel for scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions and conferences; estate settlement; contract negotiations and more. These do not include visas for students, temporary workers, journalists, and other special professions that require a different visa. E-1 & E-2 Visas The E-1 visa is known as the treaty trader visa, and the E-2 visa is known as the treaty investor visa. These visas are available for nationals of countries with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation. The applicants must be travelling to the U.S. to carry for substantial trade or to develop or direct an operation for an enterprise in which they have invested, or are in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital. F-1 Visa A student must be accepted into an SEVP-certified school in order to apply for an F-1 visa. This includes certain universities, colleges, high schools, private elementary schools, seminaries, conservatories, language schools, and more. Students of vocational programs and students taking recreational short courses for less than 18 hours a week do not qualify for this particular visa. H Visas These are temporary work visas for persons with certain occupations. These include specialty occupations, seasonal agricultural workers, temporary or seasonal non-agricultural workers, and trainees other than medical or academic. I Visas Journalists, press, and other representatives of foreign media must obtain an I visa to enter the United States for temporary and professional purposes. J Visas Exchange visitors such as students, teachers, interns, specialists, camp counselors, and more can apply for a J visa for temporary non-immigrant residence in the United States. The purpose of these visas is to allow foreign nationals to experience our culture and way of life and to build a lasting relationship. L Visas These visas are available for intracompany transferees. They must have been employed abroad continuously for one year within the past three years, and they must be employed by branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of that same employer in the U.S. in a high-standing position, such as manager or executive, or having specialized knowledge. O Visas To apply for such a visa, the individual must be a person with extraordinary ability or achievement in the area of science, art, education, business, athletics, or the motion picture and television field. Their assistants may also apply for an O visa when traveling with them for an event or performance. P Visas Individual or team athletes, members of internationally-recognized entertainment groups, or artists / entertainers of culturally unique programs qualify for P visas. They must be traveling to the United States temporarily for professional reasons. Q Visas Participants in international cultural exchange programs may apply for a Q-1 visa. Their purpose for travel must be to provide practical training, employment, and the sharing of their home country's history, culture, and traditions. R-1 Visa These visas are granted to religious workers seeking to enter the United States for temporary religious work. They must be part of a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the U.S. with a tax-exempt status, or that qualifies for tax exemption. They must also have been a member of that denomination for a minimum of two years preceding their application and must be planning to serve as a minister. TN / NAFTA Visa TN visas are available due to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the U.S. This agreement allows qualified Canadian and Mexicans citizens to enter the United States temporarily for professional business activities.
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