E-1 Treaty Trader Visa
US immigration policy supports investors and foreign commerce in a variety of ways. The E-1 visa is issued to individuals known as “treaty traders.” A treaty trader must be a national of a country with which the US maintains a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation or a Free Trade Agreement which specifically contains E-1 provisions.
The E-1 applicant must be coming to the US to carry on substantial trade, or to develop and direct the operations of a business in which he or she has invested or will soon invest a substantial amount of capital. The trade must be international in scope and conducted principally between the US and the E-1 applicant’s country of citizenship. In addition to the investor himself, key employees (executive, manager, or one whose services are “essential to the efficient operation of the enterprise”) are also eligible for the E-1 visa.
An E-1 visa may be granted initially for up to two years and may be extended in two year increments. Spouses and children of E-1 visa holders may accompany the treaty trader and are eligible to apply for and receive employment authorization.
E-2 Treaty Investor Visa
The E-2 Visa is issued to individuals known as “treaty investors.” A treaty investor is defined as a national of a country with which the US maintains a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, Bilateral Investment Treaty, or Free Trade Agreement which specifically contains E-2 provisions.
The treaty investor must be able to demonstrate that they are coming to the US to partake in a substantial investment or to direct the operations of a business in which the E-2 visa holder has invested or will soon invest a substantial amount of money. The E-2 visa holder must own more than 50% of the proposed investment, unless that person is entering the US as an employee of a business providing more than 50% of the total investment.
The E-2 visa may be granted initially for up to two years and may be extended in two year increments. Spouses and children of E-2 visa holders may accompany the treaty trader and are eligible to apply for and receive employment authorization.
H-1B Temporary Work Visa
The H-1B Visa allows foreign workers in “specialty occupations” to enter the US and work in a variety of jobs including architecture, engineering, modeling, and health and medicine.
This visa is sometimes used to hire workers for the Department of Defense (DOD). The H-1B Visa offers a wide range of employment possibilities and is often the first step toward obtaining a green card.
In order to qualify for H-1B classification, you must possess practical application of specialized knowledge and a US bachelor’s degree (or its foreign equivalent) or higher. Further, the job must require a US bachelor’s degree (or its foreign equivalent). This is not a self-petitioning category, so a sponsoring employer, must petition for you. The spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of an H-1B worker are allowed to accompany you as H-4 dependents. They are not, however, authorized for employment unless they independently qualify for employment authorization on some other basis. H-4 dependents, though, may enroll and attend school in the US without obtaining a student visa.
H-1B Visas are issued in up to three-year increments, for a maximum of six years. After reaching the six year limit, a one year stay outside the US is required before becoming eligible to reapply for H-1B status. If the H-1B holder also has an application for labor certification, or an employment based immigrant visa petition, pending for a year or more, extensions in one year increments may be granted beyond the normal six year limit.
H1-B1 Temporary Work Visa
The H1-B1 Visa is similar to the H-1B and is designated for people in “specialty occupations.” H1-B1’s are limited to foreign nationals from certain countries including Australia, Chile and Singapore. This category was created by the US-Chile Free Trade Agreement and the US-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.
In order to qualify for a H1-B1 Visa, you must have practical application of specialized knowledge and a US bachelor’s degree (or its foreign equivalent). The job sought must require a US bachelor’s degree (or its foreign equivalent).
Because this is not a self-petitioning category, you must have a US employer sponsor you.
A spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of an H1-B1 worker are allowed to accompany this individual as H-4 dependents. They are not, however, authorized for employment unless they independently qualify for employment authorization on some other basis. They may, though, enroll and attend school in the US without obtaining a student visa.
How to Apply
You must receive a written offer of employment from a US employer. Unlike the H-1B Visa, there is no need for the employer to file an I-129 Petition with the USCIS in the US However, like the H-1B, a prevailing wage needs to be obtained and a Labor Condition Attestation (LCA) needs to be filed.
Both you and your employer are required to submit documents proving eligibility. You are required to submit the following documents when applying abroad:
- Completed visa applications (Form DS-156) with one recent headshot, 1 inch square (37mm x 37mm), of each applicant, with the entire face visible. The photograph should be taken before a light background and without head covering.
- The DS-157 Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application is required for all men ages 16-45
- A passport valid for at least six months longer than your intended visit
- Proof of non-immigrant intent
Your employer must provide the following:
- Copy of the certified LCA
- A written offer of employment
H-2A Temporary Work Visa
The H-2A Visa is the most functional of all visa categories. H-2A visas fill a specific seasonal need for US employers and allow foreign workers entry into the US to work in agriculture.
The H-2A Visa is not self-petitioned. Employers must prove that there are no US workers available to perform the required work. Although this is a temporary visa, it can be extended for up to three years.
Workers’ spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old are allowed to join them in the US under H-4 status. Dependents are not permitted to work unless they independently qualify for and receive a work visa.
H-2B Temporary Work Visa
While there is a limited amount of H-2B visas issued each year, this visa is nonetheless useful. The H-2B Visa enables US businesses such as hotels, construction companies, and landscapers to apply to the US government to fill temporary needs for nonimmigrant workers.
Many individuals who are unable to obtain an O or P Visa decide to apply for an H-2B Visa.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old may accompany the H-1B visa holder in the US under H-4 status. Dependents are not permitted to work unless they independently qualify for and receive a work visa.
H-3 Trainee Visa
The H-3 visa is designed to allow workers in “any field of endeavor” (except graduate medical education or training) to train in the US. The H-3 is most often used for training agriculture, technology, communications, governmental, and special education leadership.
Along with the required application, the H-3 visa requires that the training:
- Is not available in the foreign national’s home country
- Will benefit the foreign national in his career
- Will not place the foreign national in a position in the normal operation of the business that is normally filled by US workers
- Will not involve productive employment unless it is incidental and necessary to the training and necessary for pursuing the particular career outside the US
- Will benefit the foreign national in pursuing his career upon leaving the US
L-1 Temporary Work Visa
Businesses that function both in the US and abroad benefit from the ability to shift executives, manager, or employers with specialized knowledge from one country to another. The L-1 visa is open to international business and organizations with offices in the US who temporarily transfer employees to their US office. This visa is also known as an “intra-company transferee” visa.
To receive an L-1 visa, the foreign national must have worked for the foreign company for at least one full year within the last three years prior to applying as an executive, manager, or employee with specialized knowledge.
The L-1 visa enables the transfer of managers, executives, and specialized knowledge personnel to a US office, subsidiary or affiliated company. This visa comes in the following categories:
- L-1A Visa – for executives and managers
- L-1B Visa – for personnel with specialized knowledge
The maximum period of authorized stay in the US with an L-1A visa is seven years for an L-1A and five years for an L-1B. A spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old may join the L-1 visa holder in the US through L-2 status. In addition, L-2 status spouses are allowed to work.
O-1 Temporary Work Visa
An O-1 visa is designated for people with extraordinary ability in a wide spectrum of fields including the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, motion picture or TV industries.
The O-1 visa must be petitioned for by a US employer or agency, or by foreign employer through a US agent. A spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old may join the O-1 visa holder in the US under O-3 status, but they are not authorized to work unless they independently qualify for and receive a work visa.
To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must prove that you possess “a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field of endeavor.” You may prove this by receipt of a major internationally recognized award, such as the Nobel Prize, or by documenting at least three of the following:
- Receipt of nationally or internationally recognized awards
- Membership in an organization that requires outstanding achievement
- Published material about the foreign national in professional or major trade publications
- Judgment of the work of others
- Original scientific or scholarly work of major significance in the field
- Authorship of scholarly work
- Evidence of employment in a critical or essential capacity at an organization with a distinguished reputation
- Receipt of high salary in relation to others in the field
O-2 Temporary Work Visa
Support personnel of O-1 visa holders in athletics, entertainment, and motion picture and TV production are eligible for an O-2 visa.
A US employer, US agency or foreign employer through a US agent must petition for the O-2. A spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old are permitted to join in the US under O-3 status, but they are not authorized to work unless they independently qualify for and receive a work visa. The maximum period of authorized stay in O status is three years.
P-1 Temporary Work Visa
Artists and athletes are essential to healthy cultural exchange. The global community benefits greatly from the work of each country’s greatest thinkers and performers. P-1 visas are issued to “internationally recognized” entertainers and athletes who wish to work/compete in the US. “Internationally recognized” means “a high level of achievement …evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent such achievement is renowned, leading or well-known in more than one country.”
Internationally recognized athletes may apply for a P-1 visa in order to compete in the US, either as individuals or as members of an internationally recognized athletic team.
Internationally recognized entertainment groups can obtain P-1 status as a unit. However, individual entertainers within these groups cannot apply for separate visas.
The US entity petitioning for P-1 athletes will need to document that:
- The athlete/team is internationally recognized.
- The athletic competition has a distinguished reputation.
- The competition requires participation of athletes/teams with an international reputation.
The petition must include a contract with a major US sports league or team, or one commensurate with international recognition, and evidence of any two of the following:
- “Significant participation in a prior season with a major US sports league”
- That the applicant has taken part in “international competition with a national team”
- “Significant participation in a prior season for a US college or university in intercollegiate competition”
- Statement from US official in the sport about the athlete/team’s international recognition
- Statement from expert or sports media attesting to international recognition
- Athlete/team’s ranking
- Significant honor or award
Or, in place of any two of the above, the petitioner may provide proof of employment with a professional sports team that is associated with 6 or more teams in a league that has combined revenue of $10 million or more, or a minor league team affiliated with such league.
The employer of an entertainer P-1 Visa applicant may be asked to provide the following:
- A letter from an appropriate labor organization.
- Proof that the group has been established and performing regularly for at least one year.
- Proof that the group has received international awards or prizes for outstanding achievement in the field or evidence of at least three of the following:
- Past and future performance as a starring or leading entertainment group in productions or events which have a distinguished reputation as evidenced by critical reviews, advertisements, publicity releases, publications, contracts, or endorsements.
- Achievement of international recognition and acclaim for outstanding achievement in its field, as evidenced by reviews in major newspapers, trade journals, magazines or other published material.
- Past and future performance services as a leading or starring group for organizations and establishments that have distinguished reputation, as evidenced by articles in newspapers, trade journals, publications, or testimonials.
- A record of major commercial or critically acclaimed successes, as evidenced by indicators such as ratings, box office receipts, record, cassette, CD, video, and digital download sales, and other achievements as reported in trade journals, major newspapers or other publications.
- Significant recognition for achievements from critics, organizations, government agencies or other recognized experts in the field in which the alien is engaged, with the testimonials clearly indicating the author’s authority, expertise and knowledge of the alien’s achievements.
- Past and future command of a high salary or other substantial remuneration for “services comparable to others similarly situated in the field, as evidenced by contract or other reliable evidence.
Admission in P-1 status may be up to 5 years with an extension for the same. P-1 teams or entertainment groups may be admitted for up to one year. Spouses and dependents may receive the same periods of admission as above.
P-2 Temporary Work Visa
P-2 Visas are issued to bands and groups entering the US as part of an exchange program. The US labor group that negotiated the exchange agreement, the sponsoring organization or the US employer must file the petition.
A P-2 applicant may be asked to provide the following:
- A written consultation by an appropriate labor organization.
- A copy of the formal reciprocal exchange agreement between the US organization(s) sponsoring the alien and the organization(s) in a foreign country which will receive the US artist or entertainer.
- A letter from the sponsoring organization describing the exchange which is to take place.
- Proof that the non-immigrant visa petitioner and the US artist or entertainer have comparable skills and that the terms and conditions of employment are similar.
- Proof of the agreement between the organizations involved in the exchange
P-3 Temporary Work Visa
The P-3 Visa allows “culturally unique” artists and entertainers to travel to the US for temporary positions as performers, teachers or coaches.
Either the sponsoring organization or the US employer must file the P-3 visa application. P-3 applicants may be asked to provide the following:
- A letter from the labor organization
- Letters regarding the culturally unique individual’s skills and talents in his/her field
- Proof that “all of the performances or presentations will be culturally unique events” (USCIS)
- Articles and reviews in respected newspapers, journals, and magazines that prove that the events will be culturally unique
P-2, P-3 and essential support applicants may grant admission for the time necessary to complete the event, for up to one year. Extensions may be granted in the same amount. Spouses and dependents are eligible for the same terms of admission and extension as the principal P-2 and P-3 visa holders.
R-1 Temporary Work Visa
The R-1 Visa allows religious workers to temporarily enter the US for employment in their religious vocation. Ministers, nuns, monks, and teachers affiliated with a particular religion are examples of religious workers. In addition, liturgical workers, religious instructors and cantors, catechists, workers in religious hospitals, missionaries, religious translators, and religious broadcasters are eligible for an R-1 Visa.
An R-1 applicant must demonstrate that he/she belonged to a non-profit religious organization in the US for at least two years. The US petitioning organization must be a tax-exempt non-profit religious organization that is able to afford to pay the worker’s salary and, if applicable, provide room and board.
Religious workers who live outside the US should apply for a R-1 Visa with their consulate. Religious workers who are already in the US may ask their employer “to petition for a change of status, extension of stay, or change of employment.”
R-1 Visa holders may remain in the US for up to five years. A spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old may accompany the religious worker to the US under R-2 status. R-2 Visa holders are not authorized to work while in the US but may attend school.
For Ministers, you must:
- Be fully authorized and trained by a religious denomination to conduct religious worship and perform other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy of that denomination
- Not be a lay preacher
- Perform activities rationally related to being a minister
- Work solely as a minister in the US which may include administrative duties incidental to the duties of a minister
For non-ministerial religious workers, you must be:
- A member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the US for at least two years preceding the application
- Coming to work 20 hours or more per week
- Coming to work in a religious vocation or occupation
The petitioning organization will normally be asked to provide the following:
- A statement outlining the potential position, including “salary, benefits, and other compensation” and the applicant’s qualifications for the work to be performed.
- The name and address of the organization where the religious worker will be employed.
- Proof of “the organization’s affiliation with the denomination” in question. (USCIS)
TN (Trade NAFTA) Visa
Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), certain citizens of Canada and Mexico are eligible to enter the US to work temporarily under the nonimmigrant TN status. The following are the requirement to be eligible for the TN Visa:
- The profession must be on the NAFTA list.
- The foreign national must possess the necessary training/licensing for that profession.
- The proposed position must be classified as a professional position.
- The foreign national must work for a US employer.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old are eligible to enter the US under TD-1 and TD-2 Visas. Family members may attend school in the US, but they are not allowed to work.
Canadian citizens applying for a TN-1 Visa must provide the following information:
- A document from their employer outlining the job duties, the length of the assignment, and salary
- Proof that the employee has completed the necessary education or training for the position
- Proof that the employee has all of the necessary licenses for the position
- Proof of Canadian citizenship
Canadian citizens do not need to file a petition for employment; a TN Visa holder is authorized to work pursuant to status.
Mexican citizens are eligible to apply for the TN-2 Visa. Unlike Canadian citizens, Mexican applicants must apply at a US consulate in their home country. Interested applicants must meet the following requirements:
- A document from the employer outlining the job duties, the length of the assignment, and salary
- Proof that the employee has completed the necessary education or training for the position
- Proof that the employee has all of the necessary licenses for the position
- Proof of Mexican citizenship