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Work Visas

Work Visas

There are various categories or classifications of nonimmigrant visas for a person who wishes to work temporarily in the United States, based on U.S immigration laws, specifically known as Immigration and Nationality Act. If you want to work in the U.S. temporarily, under immigration law, you need a specific visa based on the purpose of your travel and type of work you will be doing.

You can Review Temporary Workers Category on the USCIS website for more detailed information, petition procedures and eligibility for each type of temporary worker.

H-1B - Persons in Specialty Occupation which requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge requiring completion of a specific course of higher education (65,000). This category also includes fashion models and Government-to-Government research and development, or co-production projects administered by the Department of Defense (100);

H-2A - Seasonal Agricultural Workers – Review USCIS H-2A program requirements and regulations, which apply to all petitions filed for this visa category;

H-2B - Temporary or Seasonal Nonagricultural Workers – Review USCIS H-2B program requirements and regulations, which apply to all petitions filed for this visa category. (66,000);

H-3 Trainees (other than medical or academic) - This visa type also applies to practical training in the education of handicapped children (50);

L - Intracompany Transferees Who, within the three preceding years, have been employed abroad continuously for one year, and who will be employed by a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of that same employer in the U.S. in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity;

O-1 - Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television field;

O-2 - Persons Accompanying an O-1 to assist in an artistic or athletic performance for a specific event or performance;

P-1 - Individual or Team Athletes, or Members of an Entertainment group that are internationally recognized (25,000);

P-2 - Artists or Entertainers who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program;

P-3 - Artists or Entertainers who perform under a program that is culturally unique; and

Q-1 Participants in an International Cultural Exchange Program for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the alien's home country.


Labor Certifications

In order to be considered for nonimmigrant visa under the above classifications some temporary worker categories require an applicant's prospective employer to file and obtain a labor certification or other approval from the Department of Labor for the prospective employee the visa applicant. Once that is received, if required, the prospective employer or agent can file the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS.
Petitions

Before applying for a temporary worker visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad applicants must obtain an approved Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker from USCIS. The I-129 petition must be submitted by your prospective employer with USCIS’s no earlier than 6 months prior to the proposed employment start date. Employers should file the petition as soon as possible within the 6 month period to allow adequate time for processing. Should you need petition processing faster, see Premium Processing Service. Once approved, the employer will be sent Form I-797, Notice of Action or Approval Notice.

Important Note: The Form I-797 is no longer needed for your interview. However, to verify petition approval, the consulate will need your I-129 petition receipt number so please make sure to have this available.

PIMS Processing Update

If there’s a chance a beneficiary of a petition needs to obtain a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate after the petitioner requests a change of status, extension of status, or amendment to the original petition it is advisable that the petitioner submit 2 copies of the updated petition with the original signatures on all forms to USCIS. When submitting the 2 copies of the updated petition it is encouraged to identify one of them with a brightly colored cover sheet with the notation “Please send this copy to the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) upon approval”.  Once approved, USCIS will then forward the marked copy of the updated petition to KCC for scanning and entry into the PIMS database where the U.S. Embassy or Consulate will be able to access the updated petition.

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Applying for a Visa

Temporary Worker applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for a Temporary Work (H, L, O, P, or Q) visa under immigration law. The consular officer will determine whether you qualify for the visa. Applicants for temporary work visas should generally apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. Visa applications are now subject to a greater degree of review than in the past so it is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date.

As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. To make an appointment for interview you will need to provide the receipt number that is printed on the approved Form I-129 petition. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available at Visa Wait Times, and on most embassy websites. Learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy specific instructions, and much more by visiting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply.

During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview by a Consular Officer.


Required Documentation

Each applicant for a visitor visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below.

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160. Visit DS-160 webpage to learn more about the DS-160 online process.
  • A passport valid for travel to the U.S. with a validity date of at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the U.S. (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application.
  • Visa applicants included in L blanket petitions must provide Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition.


What are the Required Visa Fees?

  • Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee: For current fees for Department of State government services select Fees. You will need to provide a receipt showing the visa application processing fee has been paid, when you come for your visa interview.
  • Visa issuance fee: Additionally, if the visa is issued, there will be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, if applicable. Please consult the Visa Reciprocity Tables to find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.
  • Other Fees for Certain L Visa Applicants: Visa applicants included in L blanket petitions must also pay a fraud prevention and detection fee and may need to pay the Border Security Act Fee. Select Fees for more information under Other Fees.


Legal Rights and Protections for Employment (H1-B, H2-A and H2-B) or Education-based Nonimmigrants

Recent changes to U.S. law relate to the legal rights of employment-based nonimmigrants under Federal immigration, labor, and employment laws, and the information to be provided about protections and available resources. As a temporary visitor to the U.S., it is important that you are aware of your rights, as well as protections and resources available when you come to work or study here. Before your interview, review the Nonimmigrant Rights, Protections and Resources pamphlet and learn about additional information on the webpage at http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/pamphlet/pamphlet_4578.html.

Spouses and Children

With the exception of "Q-1 Cultural Exchange Visitors", the spouse and unmarried, minor children of an applicant under for any of the above types of visas may also apply for the same type of visa in order to accompany or join the principal applicant. The principal applicant must be able to show that he or she will be able to support his or her family in the U.S. A person who has received a visa as the spouse or child of a temporary worker may not accept employment in the U.S. with the exception of spouses of L-1 visa holders - L-2 spouses who may engage in employment with an "employment authorized" endorsement or appropriate work permit.


Additional Information

  • With the exception of the H-1B, L-1, and O categories, visa applicants also need to show proof of binding ties to a residence outside the United States which they have no intention of abandoning.
  • No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. The approval of a petition does not guarantee visa issuance, as the applicant will need to be eligible for the visa under provisions of U.S. immigration laws.
  • Final travel plans or the purchase of non-refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.


Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the U.S.

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Change of Status

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