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Work Visas

Below you will find general information about the most popular work visas. No two cases are exactly the same, therefore, please feel free to call us to discuss your options.

L-1 Intra-Company Transfer Visa

To qualify for the L-1 visa, the following requirements must be met:

  • The transferring foreign business must be a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of the U.S. business. This is achieved through joint-ownership: one business owns the other, the same individual has a controlling interest in both businesses, or the same individuals jointly own a controlling interest in both businesses;
  • The L-1 manager must supervise multiple levels of workers in the U.S. company or manage a specific function within the company.
  • An L-1 specialist must have specialized, proprietary knowledge or skills which he will be teaching to workers at the U.S. company.
  • The L-1 manager or specialist must have worked at least one complete, continuous year anytime during the previous three years for the foreign business that is transferring him to the U.S.A.
  • The L-1 manager must supervise several employees at multiple levels within the U.S. business in order to qualify for visa renewals.

Law Firm Recommendation:

If the U.S. Company has been active less than one year, the applicant will receive the L-1 visa for only one year. Since an L-1 manager must supervise several people at different levels of responsibility at visa renewal time, Anthony Olson, P.A. strongly recommends that the U.S. business be established and ready to operate (or be already operating with the help of U.S. personnel) at the time of the initial visa issuance.

Note: There is a specific green card category available for L-1 managers, called the EB-1 multinational manager green card. An L-1 manager who is highly qualified for the L-1 visa also has a good chance of qualifying for the Multinational Manager Green Card.

The spouse of an L-1 manager or L-1 specialist can obtain a work authorization to work for any employer in any type of job.

H-1B Visa Specialist Worker Visa

The H-1B visa is a very popular visa sponsored by U.S. companies that wish to hire foreign specialist workers. Presently, however, this visa category is capped by Congress at 65,000 per fiscal year, essentially to protect U.S. workers and wage stability.

The primary requirements for the H-1B visa are the following:

  • A U.S. employer must offer the foreign specialist a job in a specialty occupation.
  • In order for the job to qualify as being in a specialty occupation, it must require no less than a bachelor degree, and it must be common practice within the industry that this type of position requires no less than a bachelor degree.
  • The foreign specialist must have a bachelor or higher degree in the same or similar field as the job being offered, or the foreign specialist can have the equivalent amount of practical work experience, or a combination of education and work experience, in the same or similar field. In evaluating the equivalence of practical experience, 3 years of practical experience are considered the equivalence of 1 year of university studies.
  • The U.S. employer is required to pay the H-1B visa holder the so-called "prevailing wage," which is the average wage paid to workers performing the same job in the same region of the U.S.

The H-1B visa is usually granted for a period of 3 years, and can be renewed for another 3 years, but 6 years is the maximum number of years allowed under the H-1B visa without a 1-year stay in the foreign worker's home country.

Other H-1B visa-related information:

  • There are an additional 20,000 H-1B visas available (beyond the 65,000 cap) to graduates of advanced degree programs in the U.S.
  • Out of the 65,000 quota, there are 5,400 H-1B visas set aside for citizens of Singapore and 1,400 H-1B visas for citizens of Chile.
  • H-1B visas are also exempt from the quota if the U.S. employer is a college or university (government or private, non-profit), related or affiliated non-profit entity, non-profit research organization, or governmental research organization.
  • H-1B visa extensions beyond 6 years are possible when a labor certification for permanent residence is pending for more than 1 year (eligible for 1-year extension), or when a labor certification and an I-140 petition for permanent residence have been approved (eligible for 3-year extension).

Note: The H-1B worker can petition for permanent resident status without any concerns that he may encounter problems in trying to renew his visa based on having shown immigrant intent through filing for permanent residence.

TN Visa for Specialist Workers under NAFTA

The TN visa is a work visa available to certain specialist workers from Canada and Mexico, based on the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The NAFTA treaty lists specific specialist job types, which qualify for the TN visa.

The TN visa does not have many of the burdensome requirements like the H-1B visa. While the TN visa covers many of the same types of specialty occupations as the  H-1B visa, it actually has lower educational requirements than the  H-1B visa, and, therefore, is available to some people who would not qualify for the  H-1B visa, namely registered nurses with 2-year degrees. TN visas are not subject to the annual quotas that limit the number of  H-1B visas that may be issued, and they are not subject to the prevailing wage requirements.

Canadian workers can obtain the TN visa at any U.S. Class A port of entry, U.S. international airport, or at a preclearance/preflight station in Canada, without going to a U.S. consulate to apply. Mexican workers must obtain the visa by applying at a U.S. consulate prior to entry into the U.S.

The TN visa is issued for three years at a time, and can be extended every three years without limitation on the number of extensions. However, the TN visa will not be approved for anyone who indicates a desire to immigrate to the U.S. Thus, after several extensions of the TN, it may become an indication that the applicant does not wish to return to his/her home country, which may be sufficient grounds for denying an extension.

O-1 Visa for Extraordinary Ability

The O-1 visa is a work visa available to foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, who wish to come to the U.S. to work in their field of expertise. A U.S. business offering the foreign national a job, or a business agent representing the foreign national must apply on behalf of the foreign national for an O-1 visa.

To qualify for an O-1 visa in the sciences, education, business, or athletics, it is necessary to show that the foreign national is among the small percentage of people who have risen to the very top of a given field, either at the national or international level. The person must present proof either of receipt of a major, internationally recognized award or at least three of the following forms of documentation:

  • receipt of nationally or internationally recognized prizes or awards for excellence in the field of endeavor
  • membership in associations in the field that require outstanding achievements of their members;
  • published materials in professional or major trade publications or major media about the alien concerning the alien's work in the field;
  • participation on a panel, or individually, as a judge of the work of others;
  • scientific, scholarly, or business-related contributions of major significance;
  • authorship of scholarly articles in the field in professional journals or other major media;
  • employment in a critical or essential capacity for organizations and establishments that have a distinguished reputation;
  • high salary or her remuneration commanded by the alien for services;
  • other comparable evidence (this typically includes recommendation letters from experts).

From experience we can conclude that the greater the competition in the applicant's field the tougher the criteria to qualify him/her for the O-1 visa.  In other words, it is more difficult to qualify a renowned computer analyst for an O-1 visa than, for example, an extraordinary beekeeper or a renowned children's story writer.

Note: The qualifying criteria for an O-1 visa in the arts are a bit less stringent. For artists it is necessary to show that the alien's work has achieved "distinction." Distinction is defined as having achieved a high level of skill and recognition in the field, and being recognized as prominent, leading, or well-known in the field of arts.

P-1 Visa for Athletes and Entertainers

The P-1 visa is for athletes who compete individually or as part of a team at an internationally recognized level, and entertainers who perform as part of a group that has received international recognition as outstanding for a sustained period of time.

Evidence of international recognition can be shown by presenting a contract with a major U.S. sports league or team, or a contract in an individual sport reflecting international recognition in that sport, and documentation of two of the following:

  • participation in a prior season with a major U.S. sports league;
  • participation in international competition with a national team;
  • participation in a prior season for a U.S. college in intercollegiate competition;
  • a statement from an official of a major U.S. sports league or an official of the governing body of the sport detailing how that alien or the team is internationally recognized;
  • a statement from a member of the sports media or from a recognized expert in the sport that details how the alien or the team is internationally recognized;
  • international rankings of the individual or team;
  • significant honors or awards in the sport received by the individual or team.

An entertainment group must show that it has received international recognition as being outstanding for a sustained and substantial period of time in order to qualify for a P-1 visa.

J-1 Visa for International Exchange

The J-1 visa is issued to foreign applicants who wish to come to the U.S. to participate in programs which include a combination of education, work training, and cultural exchange. There are over a thousand qualifying programs in a broad range of fields, accepting participants with many different levels of education and work experience.

Before a person can apply for a J-1 visa, he/she must apply to and be accepted into a sponsoring program accredited by the U.S. State Department. The following is a list of the 13 categories in which qualifying programs exist, and the list also states the maximum validity period for a J-1 visa in each category.

  1. University professors and research scholars (3 years)
  2. Short-term scholars (6 months)
  3. Trainees (specialist and non-specialist) and Interns (18 months and 12 months, respectively)
  4. College and university students, for the duration of the academic degree program or, if not for a degree program, then for a maximum of two years. (Students in degree programs below the doctoral level may also engage in 18 months of training after completion of the degree program, while post-doctoral training is permissible for a period of 36 months following conferral of the degree.)
  5. Primary and secondary school teachers (3 years)
  6. Secondary school students (1 year)
  7. Specialists in mass media communications, environmental science youth leadership, international educational exchange, museum exhibitions, labor law, public administration, and library science (1 year)
  8. Foreign physicians (7 years)
  9. International visitors (1 year)
  10. Government visitors (18 months)
  11. Camp counselors (4 months)
  12. Au-pairs (1 year)
  13. Summer Student Travel/Work (4 months)

Probably the single largest J-1 program category is for "trainees." 
 
This category for trainees includes 11 sub-categories:

  1. Arts and Culture
  2. Information Media and Communications
  3. Education, Social Sciences, Library Science, Counseling and Social Services
  4. Health Related Occupations
  5. Management, Business, Commerce and Finance
  6. Aviation
  7. The Sciences, Engineering, Architecture, Mathematics, and Industrial Occupations
  8. Construction and Building Trades
  9. Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
  10. Public Administration and Law
  11. Hospitality and Tourism

Note:  Each program is designated as to whether the training is for specialized fields, for individuals with a university degree in the field, or for non-specialized areas, for which it is necessary only to have work experience in the area.

In some J-1 categories, such as for college and university students, the student first completes a degree program, and then receives a work authorization to pursue work experience in the same field.

Spouses and dependent children under 21 of a J-1 visa holder qualify for a J-2 visa. J-2 dependents can obtain a work authorization. During their period of stay, J-2 dependents are also free to attend public schools and post-secondary educational institutions.

Some J-1 visa holders are subject to a two-year home stay requirement. This means that, at the end of the J-1 period of stay in the U.S., the J-1 visa holder must return to his or her home country for two years, since it is not possible to change to any other visa or to permanent residence in the U.S. until the two-year home stay requirement is satisfied. A J-1 visa holder is subject to the two-year home stay requirement in any of the following situations:

  • the J-1 visa holder's program was funded by the U.S. government or the person's home government;
  • in the J-1 visa holder's homeland, there is a shortage of workers in the J-1 visa holder's field of expertise, as determined by the U.S. State Department; or
  • the J-1 visa holder came to the U.S. to seek post-graduate medical education or training.

J-1 visa holders subject to the two-year home stay requirement can obtain waivers; however, the person must show that they face extreme hardship in being forced to return to their homeland. In the case of J-1 physicians, they can also obtain a waiver of the two-year home stay requirement through participation in J-1 waiver program whereby they practice medicine for 3-4 years in a medically underserved area in the U.S.

If you would like to find an approved program in your field of endeavor, you can find a complete list of qualifying programs on the U.S. State Department's website at the following address: http://eca.state.gov/jexchanges/index.cfm.

We will glady answer any questions that you have about the work visas described above if you call us at 941-362-7100 or email us at tony@immigrationvisausa.com.