- As the world’s strongest economy, work visas are a common part of work arrangements in the United States. They are desired by employers who need to engage top talent, but can’t find it locally (especially in the tech space). And they are desired by employees who seek to improve their quality of life and careers by moving to the US.
- There are a range of possible visas which will allow an individual to work in the US. Before attempting to sponsor an applicant on a visa, it is important that businesses have assessed which visa is appropriate for their company.
- Due to strict rules that the US government applies to work visas, businesses should consider visa support assistance from a global Professional Employer Organization (global PEO) — companies that specialize in supporting cross-border employee hire.
The United States has the world’s largest economy, with a gross domestic product (GDP) of over $23 trillion, according to the latest figures. Overall, the US economy is known for its innovation, entrepreneurship, and productivity, which has helped to drive economic growth and improve the standard of living for millions of Americans. As a highly developed country, the US possesses excellent infrastructure, a highly educated workforce, and access to abundant natural resources.
As with many other major economies, businesses in the US sometimes struggle to find the talent that it needs to drive growth, and for this reason, it has introduced a range of visa categories for educated professionals: The 0-1, EB-1 and HB-1 visas are all focused on bringing highly skilled professionals into the USA.
Read on to find out more about the different types of USA visa, and the steps you need to go through to apply for one.
What are the different types of USA work visa?
There are several types of work visas available in the United States, each with a set of specific eligibility criteria and restrictions. Key work visas include the:
- H-1B visa — a temporary work visa for individuals in specialty occupations such as engineering, technology, and science. Employers must sponsor the worker for this visa and prove that no US worker is available for the job. It is valid for up to three years and can be renewable for a total of six years
- L-1 visa — a visa for intracompany transferees, who are employees of an international company with offices in both the home country and the United States. The visa is valid for up to seven years for managers and executives and five years for specialized knowledge workers
- E-3 visa — a special visa only available to Australian citizens coming to the United States to work in a specialty occupation. Like the H-1B, the employer must sponsor the worker and prove the unavailability of US workers for the job. It is valid for up to two years and can be renewed indefinitely
- TN visa — while commonly referred to as a visa, this is actually an immigration classification allowing entry into the United States, without a work visa. This is for Canadian and Mexican citizens coming to the United States to work in certain professions under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The employer must sponsor the worker, and it is valid for up to three years, with the classification eligible to be renewed indefinitely
- O-1 visa — a visa for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The employer or an agent must sponsor the worker. It is valid for up to three years and is renewable indefinitely.
- J-1 visa — not strictly a work visa, this exchange visitor vis is intended for individuals participating in cultural exchange programs, internships, training, and other educational and research programs. The employer or an agent must sponsor the worker. It is valid for the length of the program and can vary. Note, there are restrictions on paid work under this visa.
- R-1 visa — a visa for religious workers, such as ministers and other religious professionals. The employer must sponsor the worker. It is valid for up to five years and can be renewed.
- EB-1 visa — a visa for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers. The employer must sponsor the worker. It is valid for up to five years and is renewable indefinitely.
To be eligible for any of these visas, individuals must have a valid job offer from a US employer, meet certain qualifications, language requirements and pass a health examination. Additionally, for some of the visa types, individuals may also be required to provide proof of financial support, such as a bank statement or letter of guarantee. The quotas for some of the visa types, such as H-1B, are limited, and the selection process is done through a lottery system.
What is the application procedure for a USA work visa?
While the details vary by specific visa class, generally the process proceeds as follows:
- Determine the type of visa required — there are several types of work visas available for the United States, including H-1B for specialty workers, L-1 for intracompany transfers, E-3 for Australian citizens, TN entry for citizens of Canada and Mexico and O-1 for individuals with extraordinary abilities. It is important to determine which visa category is most appropriate for your situation before you start the application process
- Check that applicants meet the applicable eligibility criteria for the visa — each visa category has specific eligibility criteria that you must meet. For example, for an H-1B visa, the applicant must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a related field and a valid job offer from a U.S. employer
- Collect the required documents — while depending on the visa category in question, this includes things like proof of qualifications, proof of the job offer, proof of financial status, criminal record checks and a valid passport
- Complete the online application form — the majority of visa applications can be completed online. This will require applicants to fill out an application form, provide their personal and passport details, upload the required documents, and pay the visa fee
- Attend an interview — usually, applicants will be required to attend an interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country of residence. During the interview, the consular officer will ask questions to verify the information provided in the application form and to ensure that the applicant meets the visa requirements
Wait for the visa decision — once the application and interview have been completed, the applicant must wait for a decision on the visa application. It typically takes around 4-6 weeks for a decision to be made. If the application is successful, the visa will usually be received by registered post
Prepare for the move — if the visa is approved, the applicant will need to prepare for the move to the United States. This may include finding accommodation, arranging for belongings to be shipped, and making travel arrangements.
- Get the Social Security Number — after their arrival in the US, work visa recipients will usually need to get a Social Security Number (SSN). Individuals can apply for an SSN at a local Social Security Office after they have completed Form I-9 and provided the required documents.
USA work visas — get the support you need
With a variety of different work visas and vastly different eligibility criteria for each, businesses need to ensure that they are applying for the correct visa on behalf of their potential employee. This is especially true, given how stringent some of the visa criteria are (such as those applying to the 0-1 work visa).
To ensure that you follow the process correctly, consider the support of a leading global PEO. Global PEOs (global Professional Employer Organizations) are specialists in international visa support and can help ensure that your USA visa process goes smoothly.
The processing time for a work visa in the United States of America can vary depending on the type of visa and the individual circumstances of the applicant. Generally, the processing time can take several weeks to several months. It is recommended to apply for a work visa well in advance of the intended start date of employment in the US.
Yes, in most cases you will need sponsorship in order to obtain a work visa in the United States. The sponsor is typically the company or organization that is hiring you, and they are responsible for submitting the necessary documents and information to the U.S. government on your behalf. They will also be responsible for ensuring that you comply with all of the conditions of your visa while you are in the United States.