Under US immigration law there are various different classifications of work visa that will allow foreign citizens to undertake work on a time-limited basis in the United States
Below we look at the nature of the “temporary work visa USA” and some of the different options that are currently available.
L1 Intra-Company Transfer visa
If you are already working for an international employer who has an affiliated US office, the Intra-Company Transfer visa will allow you to temporarily transfer to a parent, a branch, an affiliate or a subsidiary of the same company in the USA to undertake work in the same or similar role.
The Intra-Company Transfer visa, or L1 visa as it is officially known, can also be used for employees who are being sent to the United States to open a new office.
In either case, however, your US employer will need to file a petition on your behalf with USCIS before you can apply for your L1 visa, unless the company transfers multiple employees on a regular basis and, as such, already has a blanket petition in place.
To qualify for an L-1 visa, your role in the organisation must either be at managerial or executive level (L1A visa), or have some form of specialised knowledge about the products, procedures or management within your organisation (L1B visa), and be destined to a position in the States at a similar level. You must also have been employed with the company for 1 year within the 3 years preceding your visa application.
H1B Speciality Occupation visa
The Speciality Occupation visa, or H1B visa as it is otherwise known, is a non-immigrant work visa for graduate-level workers to undertake a role with a US employer in a speciality occupation requiring theoretical or technical expertise.
To be eligible for an H1B visa you will need a bachelor’s or higher degree, or equivalent thereof, relevant to the specialty occupation for which sponsorship is being sought. However, what constitutes a speciality occupation is not statutorily defined. It is for USCIS to determine whether the employment qualifies and whether you, as the prospective employee, are qualified to perform the necessary role.
Where you do not have a bachelor’s or higher degree you may be able to show degree equivalence through work experience and/or other qualifications. You must also be able to demonstrate that you are uniquely qualified for the position in question because of your field of study or work experience.
Prior to applying for an H1B visa, your prospective employer must file what’s known as a labor condition application with the Department of Labor, as well as an employment-based petition with USCIS.
O-1 Extraordinary Ability visa
If you meet the threshold for ‘exceptional talent’ or can demonstrate a record of extraordinary achievement in your professional field, you should consider either the Extraordinary Ability or Extraordinary Achievement visa, otherwise known as the O1 visa.
The Extraordinary Ability visa (O1A visa) is for individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business or athletics, while the Extraordinary Achievement visa (O1B visa) is for those with extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry, as well as for those with extraordinary ability in the arts.
To qualify for an O1 visa you must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim, and must be coming to the United States to continue work in this field. Extraordinary ability means you have achieved a level of expertise that indicate you are one of a small percentage who has risen to the very top of your field on a global scale.
To demonstrate extraordinary achievement, you have to possess a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent you are recognised as outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.
Again, as with the L1 and H1B visas, to be able to apply for an O1 visa you will first need a US sponsor to petition to USCIS on your behalf.
E Treaty Trader & Treaty Investor visas
If sponsorship is not for you, there are alternative options to explore, such as coming to the United States to invest in or run your own business. However, as an entrepreneur you will either need established trade links with the USA or have a significant amount of capital to invest in a US enterprise.
The Treaty Trader and Treaty Investor visas, otherwise known as the E1 or E2 visas, are non-immigrant work visas for citizens of countries with which the US maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation.
Under the E1 Treaty Trader visa, you must be coming to the US to engage in substantial trade in either goods, money or services, principally between the USA and your treaty country, building on an existing trading relationship.
The total volume of your international trade should be principally with the United States, ie; over 50% of that trade. There is, however, no threshold applicable to the amount of trade that must take place, although generally there will be an emphasis on the volume of transactions over total monetary value.
Under the E1 visa you may also qualify as a senior employee in either an executive or supervisory position, or as someone that possesses the skills essential to the firm’s operation in the USA.
Under an E2 Treaty Investor visa you must be coming to the United States to develop and direct the operations of a bona fide enterprise in which you have invested, or are in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital, or to work in the enterprise as an executive, supervisor or essentially skilled employee.
Although the investment amount is not statutorily defined, as a general guide you will need a minimum of US$100,000 to invest.
Starting work in the US
Having secured US sponsorship and, where necessary, had your petition approved by USCIS, you will then be required to file a visa application with the local US Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence. At this stage, you will also need to pay a non-refundable application fee and schedule an interview.
In the event that your application for a US work visa is successful following your interview, you will be allowed to travel to the United States to undertake work in the capacity for which permission was sought.
That said, the grant of a visa does not necessarily guarantee entry. Having a visa only indicates a consular officer has determined you are eligible to seek entry to the USA for that specific purpose. It remains at the discretion of immigration officials at the port of entry to determine your eligibility for admission into the country.
Having been admitted into the United States under a non-immigrant visa, save except where you are in breach of your visa conditions, you will be permitted to remain in the USA for a specified period of time.
In some cases, depending on the nature of your visa category, you may even be permitted to apply for lawful permanent residence, ie; a green card, allowing you to live and work in the USA on an indefinite basis.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.