A work visa is a type of employment permit that gives someone permission to take a job in a different country. If you’re from outside the United States and want to accept employment with a U.S. employer, it’s important that you know how to apply for and obtain a visa. Understanding the types of visas available and what the requirements are for each one may help you determine which permit to pursue.
In this article, we discuss working visas and go. over 10 different types of work visas along with their requirements.
This article is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Consult with an attorney or lawyer for any legal issues you may be experiencing.
A work visa is a permit proving an individual from outside the U.S. is legally eligible to work in the U.S.
There are different types of visas, including temporary and permanent visas, and visas can also vary depending on the reason for your employment in the U.S.
Many visa holders also apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which demonstrates their eligibility to work in the country legally.
What is a work visa?
There are a variety of visas based on the work you do and whether you plan to stay permanently or temporarily. Learning about the different types of visas and their qualifications can help you understand which is the most appropriate for your purposes. An employee may need an employment visa as well as an additional work permit that allows them to pursue a career in a specific country.
10 types of work visas
Here’s an overview of 10 different types of work visas, including both temporary and permanent visas:
Temporary worker visas
A temporary worker visa grants you permission to stay in the U.S. for a designated time. The law requires you to depart the U.S. by the date that your visa expires unless you choose to reapply and extend the date. Temporary worker or nonimmigrant visas below allow employees to work for a specific employer in the U.S.
1. H-1B specialty occupation
This is the most popular type of work visa in the U.S. and is available to people from other countries who work in specialty occupations like computer science or engineering. Because of the high demand for this type of visa, there’s an annual cap on the supply. Candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree or higher and have a job offer from a U.S. employer in a specialty position may qualify for this visa.
Related: How To Find Jobs That Sponsor H-1B Visas
2. L-1 visa
This type of temporary worker visa is for employees who work for foreign businesses that have direct affiliations with U.S. companies. An employee would apply for this type of work visa if their organization transferred them to its U.S. location. Additionally, this type of work visa may be applicable if a foreign company transfers an employee to set up a U.S. office.
Employees who have worked for the foreign company for one continuous year within a three-year period prior to entering the U.S. may qualify. It’s important to note that there are two categories for this type of visa:
L-1A: Managers and executives sent to the U.S. to work at or establish a new U.S. location may be eligible for an L-1A visa.
L-1B: Employees below the manager level may qualify for an L-1B visa to work for the organization in the U.S. if they have specialized knowledge about the business, its product or its processes.
Related: Job Specialization: Definition, Pros and Cons
3. O-1 visa
This temporary worker visa is for people who have extraordinary skills within their field. To demonstrate that they’re extraordinary at their job, these candidates provide proof that they’re at the top of their field and known nationally or internationally for their achievements.
People in industries like business, sciences, arts, sports, entertainment and education may qualify for this type of visa. Employees who support extraordinary workers, like personal assistants and managers, may also qualify.
Related: How To Track Accomplishments in 3 Steps (Plus Why It’s Important)
4. E-1 and E-2 visas
This type of visa allows people from certain countries to visit the U.S. to carry on trade activities. People can obtain an E-1 work visa as a treaty trader or an E-2 work visa as a treaty investor.
Treaty traders are those from a country with a trade agreement with the U.S. who perform ongoing trade activities. Treaty investors include those who have invested a large amount of money into a U.S. business and can show you’re coming to develop your investment.
Related: Trader Certifications: Top 8 Options for Career Advancement
5. TN visa
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA created the TN work visa). It’s for Mexican or Canadian citizens who want to come to the U.S. to work for an employer. In order to qualify, you prove that you’re a citizen of one of those countries, have a job offer from a U.S. employer and have a position that qualifies you under NAFTA. Some examples are lawyers, scientists, engineers, accountants and pharmacists.
6. E-3 visa
This visa applies only to foreign nationals from Australia with a specialty occupation. their spouses and any children who are under the age of 21. There are a limited number of these visas issued each year, excluding the spouses and children of each applicant.
Requirements include a bachelor’s degree or the foreign equivalent, a special skill set that’s required to fill a specialty position and a job offer from a U.S. company.
Related: Sponsorship of Employment: How To Sponsor a Foreign Employee
7. Seasonal agricultural work visas
Seasonal agricultural worker visas (H2-A) are available for foreign workers who want to come to the U.S. to work on a temporary or seasonal basis when there’s a shortage of domestic employees. These temporary visas can last up to one year each, with a three-year maximum. There’s a list of 86 qualifying countries from which candidates may travel.
An employment-based “preference immigrant” visa, also known as a green card, is a type of work visa that’s issued to foreign nationals who plan to work and live in the U.S. permanently. In some cases, employees may apply for these work visas after moving to the U.S. After getting a temporary residency permit, qualified immigrants can change their status to permanent residents.
8. EB-1 First Preference
You can apply for an EB-1 First Preference visa under three pathways. For each one, the U.S. requires you to meet certain criteria and file a petition individually or through an employer. Here are the three types of EB-1 work visas you can apply to receive:
Extraordinary ability: You may be eligible for this pathway if you can demonstrate extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics.
Outstanding professors and researchers: Under this pathway, the U.S. requires you to demonstrate international recognition for achievements in an academic field and have at least three years of experience in teaching or research.
Multinational managers or executives: You can choose this pathway if you plan to work as a manager or executive for an international company with a U.S.-based location.
Related: How To Become a Business Executive in 7 Steps (Plus Skills)
9. EB-2 Second Preference
You can qualify for this work visa if you have an advanced degree or exceptional abilities in your field. If you have an advanced degree, you can show documentation to earn this visa, such as an official academic transcript. To qualify for an EB-2 visa for exceptional ability, the U.S. requires you to meet certain criteria by submitting documentation, which may include:
Official academic record
Letters from employers documenting at least 10 years of full-time experience
License or certification
Evidence of a salary that demonstrates your exceptional ability
Membership in a professional association
Recognition for your achievements and contributions to your field
Related: Q&A: What Is a Professional Organization?
10. EB-3 Third Preference
This type of immigrant visa is available if you have a labor certification and a permanent full-time job offer in the U.S. There are three types of employees eligible for this visa, which include:
Skilled workers: To qualify as a skilled worker, the U.S. requires you to have at least two years of training or experience and meet the educational or experience requirements of the position.
Professionals: You can qualify as a professional if you have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent and perform professional work that U.S. employees are unable to perform.
Other workers: This category may include those with professions requiring less than two years of experience for which U.S. employees are unavailable.