US Work Visas

It is entirely normal not to be certain about what you need to do, or what type of USA visa to apply for, when bringing a non-US national to work for you. There are almost 60 different types of temporary US visas in addition to several routes to permanent residence (known as the green card). This guide will not make you an expert on USA visas, and is no substitute for professional advice, but it should make you familiar with the US visa territory.

If you have not researched this area before, you may be thinking in terms of getting a 'green card' for your staff. Unfortunately, 'green card' applications usually take a long time, so even if this is the ultimate goal, you will probably need to begin by applying for a temporary work visa. Once the candidate arrives in the US on the USA visa, you can begin working on the long term project of arranging the green card.

If you are going to need someone for less than six months, a sensible first question is can the work be done by someone on a visitor’s visa (or visa-waiver), or will I need to get a 'proper' work visa? Visit visas in the US are called B1 or B2 visas, and we have a section dealing with them in the B1 and B2 index.

The other 'easy way out' is if the candidate you want to hire is a Canadian, (TN1 Visa). Treaties between the US and Canada mean that it is far easier to get a work visa if the candidate is Canadian. Unfortunately, Canada suffers from many of the same skills shortages as the US, so you will probably need to look at the 'mainstream' visa types for non-Canadian citizens.

Concerning the US work visa, there are three main categories for professionals. The H-1B visa is probably the most famous or rather 'infamous' given the constant battles in Congress over the controversial issue of how large the H1B quota should be. If it were not for the fact that these quotas can run out rather early in the fiscal year, then the H-1B visa would probably be the most useful type of US work visa as virtually any US enterprise can use it for either hires or intra-group transfers.

The problem of H-1B quotas means that you will probably want to familiarize yourself with the other main type of visa used to bring alien workers into the US. This is the L1 US work visa; these visas can be used to transfer staff who have been employed for at least one year in the last three by your parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies outside the US.

Visa Designation Uses Max. Stay
B1 Business Visitor For business people making sales, conducting negotiations, attending meetings and seeking investments. 6 Months
H-1B Speciality Occupation Worker For individuals having the equivalent of a US bachelor degree (Foreign degrees and/or work experiencemay be found to be equivalent to a US bachelor degree). 6 Years
L-1A Intra Company Transferee For executives or managers who have worked for at least one year in the past three for a foreign parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch office of the US company that will employ them. 7 Years
L-1B Intra Company Transferee For specialized knowledge employees who have worked for at least one year in the past three for a foreign parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch office of the proposed US employer. 5 Years
E-1 Treaty Trader For staff to direct and develop import / export trade between the US and the treaty country. Indefinite (2 - year increments)
E-2 Treaty Investor For staff to direct and develop investments made in the US by a treaty country national/company Indefinite (2 - year increments)
E-3 Visa for Australian’s for Australian Nationals/Citizens only. Indefinite (2 - year increments)
EB-1 Employment based Green Card Visa These visas are designed for certain multinational executives and managers; outstanding professors and researchers; and those who have extraordinary ability. Indefinite (10 - year increments)
EB-2 Employment based Green Card Visa This category is for foreign nationals professionals with an ’advanced degrees’ (masters degree or higher) and with a job offer from a U.S. company. Indefinite (10 - year increments)
EB-3 Employment based Green Card Visa This category is for ’professional workers’ with a U.S. bachelor’s or foreign equivalent degree and with a job offer from a U.S. company. Indefinite (10 - year increments)
EB-5 Investment based Green Card Visa This category visa for USA immigration is designed specifically for those wishing to immigrate to the USA by investing in the creation of a new commercial enterprise. Indefinite (10 - year increments)
Permanent residence First Preference Priority Worker For international managers and executives. Also for aliens with extraordinary ability and outstanding Professors/Researchers. Permanent
Permanent residence Second Preference Priority Worker Professionals with advanced degrees or those with exceptional ability in the sciences, arts or business. Permanent
Permanent residence Third Preference Worker Professionals with basic degrees, and skilled workers. Also "other workers" who have less than two years of relevant experience. Permanent
TN1 Canadian Professional For Canadian professionals and managers. Indefinite (1 year increments)

There are dozens of other visa categories that may be used by those in particular circumstances. We cannot cover them all in this guide. However, if you contact an Attorney will be able to cover any areas that have been omitted from this guide.

US Green Card - None Employment Based - The Green Card Lottery

The annual USA Diversity Visa Green Card Lottery makes 55,000 diversity immigrant visas (green cards) available every year to persons who meet two basic eligibility requirements. Participation in the green card lottery program is open to all individuals worldwide who meet these two basic entry requirements. The Green Card Lottery Program makes green cards available to the lottery winners, authorizing the winners and their families to live, study and work in the United States of America as permanent residents.

DV-2023 green card diversity lottery