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Immigration Law - Houston

What do I need to do if I want to come to the United States to work?

What do I need to do if I want to come to the United States to work? If you want to come to the United States to work, it can be hard to figure out where to start. The U.S. immigration system is complex: there are several different temporary visas available, each with their own requirements.

In addition to temporary visas, there are several bases to apply for permanent residence, each with separate criteria for eligibility. If you want to come to the United States for employment opportunities, you may not know where to begin. Since we often hear from people interested in pursuing their careers in the United States, we wrote this blog to provide some basic information for people interested in coming to the U.S.

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For many people who are interested in coming to the U.S. for employment or business purposes, there are a few common scenarios we see:

What do I need to do if I want to come to the United States to work?

If you do not own your own business and are not seeking to come to the United States to open a business or make an investment in a business, one of your most likely options for coming to the U.S. is based on a job offer from a U.S. employer.

If you’ve come to the United States with a visitor visa or ESTA clearance, you may already know that you are not allowed to work in the United States as a temporary visitor. However, a visitor visa does allow you to come to the United States to attend meetings or interviews. If you are visiting the U.S. to look into future employment opportunities, be aware that you will need to show that you have the means to support yourself during your stay in the U.S., that you do not intend to work in the United States while present pursuant to admission as a visitor and will depart the U.S. at the end of your authorized stay.

 There are several temporary visas available for people who want to come to the United States to work.  Most require an offer of employment from a specific employer, and some require that the employer first file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before the prospective employee can apply for a visa to come here. 

People who have temporary visas are called “Nonimmigrants” or just merely “visa holders”.  Some temporary visas have a requirement that the nonimmigrant applicant must have the intent to stay temporarily in the United States. Visas with this requirement include B visas and F visas. Other visas are considered to allow “dual intent” – a person’s intent to stay long-term in the United States is not relevant to whether they qualify for the visa. Some examples of dual intent visas include H and L visas.

Nonimmigrant visas must be obtained at a U.S. consulate.

What types of Temporary worker visas are there?

Some of the most common nonimmigrant business visas are: B-Visas, E-Visas, H-1B Visas, L-1, O-1, P-Visas, TN. If you are a Houston-area employer looking to help bring workers to the region for a temporary project, a nonimmigrant visa is necessary. Here is some general information on Temporary worker visas

B Visas

B visas are separated into two categories: B-1 Visitors for Business, and B-2 Visitors for Pleasure.  There is also a B1/B2 hybrid.  B visas are granted to individuals that seek to come to the United States temporarily for business visit purposes or tourist/leisure purposes. A B visa holder generally cannot be employed during their stay in the United States.  Applicants for B visas must show their intent to stay temporarily for business or pleasure and the intent to depart at the end of the stay.  B visas are commonly used by aliens seeking to come to the U.S. for business meetings, to visit the U.S. branch of their office that is based overseas, to scope out business opportunities, to check on their U.S. assets, visiting family/friends, medical treatment, attending sporting events, and for vacation, etc.  

E Visas for Treaty Traders or Treaty Investors

E visas are for Treaty Traders (E-1) and Investors (E-2).  These visas are granted to people from countries with treaties with the United States who are entering the United States on a temporary basis based upon treaty of friendship, commerce, navigation, etc. between the United States and the country of the applicant’s nationality.  E-1 visas are granted to those entering to carry on substantial trade between the U.S. and the foreign state of which s/he is a national of.  E-2 visas, on the other hand, are granted to those that have invested a substantial amount of their own money into a business that does more than just provide them an income, it needs to grow and show profit.  There is no limit on renewals, but it requires the showing of the intent to go home after the visa expires.  The spouse and children (under 21 and unmarried) can accompany the visa holder, and the spouse of the principal E-2 visa holder may apply for a work permit.

H Visas

H visas are separated into seven categories (H-1B: Specialty Occupation, H-1B1: Fast Track H-1B, H1C: Professional nurses working in Health Professional Shortage Area (HPSA), H-2A: Temporary agricultural workers, H-2B: Skilled/unskilled workers provided USCs/LPRs unavailable, H-3 Trainees, and H-4: Accompanying family members), with the most common one being the H-1B visa which requires a bachelor’s degree or higher or in the alternative, its equivalent (work experience is taken into consideration.)  This visa requires a job offer from employer in a U.S. specialty occupation, as in the position requires a specific degree in that field.  The employer must obtain a certification of an Labor Condition Application, which the employer attests that they have made good faith efforts to recruit U.S. workers.  The wage is set by the Department of Labor(DOL) and depends on the location of the position.  The employer is then required to pay the higher between what the DOL sets or what a U.S. employee in the same position is paid.  The bottom line is that the H-1B visa recipient should not be paid less than a qualified U.S. worker.  There is a cap of 65,000 on the number of H-1B visas granted in any calendar year with an additional 20,000 granted to those that acquired a master’s degree in the United States.  The visa, when granted, is valid for six years.

L Visas

L visas also known as Intracompany Transferees are granted to an alien who was employed within the 3 years preceding his application, was employed abroad continuously for one year by an affiliate of the U.S. petitioning company.  L-1A is designated for managers or executives.  L-1B are for those with a specialized knowledge.  This visa allows certain employees of an overseas branch of a U.S. company to transfer to the U.S. branch at companies with a qualifying corporate relationship and is therefore wildly used by multinational companies.

O Visas

O visas, are separated into three categories (O-1: extraordinary ability demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, O-2: persons accompanying and assisting an O-1 artist or athlete for specific event(s), O-3: spouses and children accompanying and following to join), with the most common one being O-1.  O-1 Visas are granted to people who have “extraordinary ability in the science, arts, education, business or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim or has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.” 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(o)(1)(i).  The alien applicant must seek to enter for the purpose of continuing work in the area of extraordinary ability or achievement. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(o)(1)(ii)(A)(1) and (2).   It still requires a temporary intent to remain, however there is no foreign-residence requirement.

P Visas

P visas, are separated into four categories (P-1: athletes and group entertainers, P-2: reciprocal exchange program, P-3: culturally unique program, and P-4: Spouses and children).  Ps must have a foreign residence that they do not intend to abandon. 8 C.F.R. § 214.2(p)(15).  P-visas grant entry to minor league professionals, entertainers and teams on a temporary basis.  This is commonly used for sports teams, musicians, competitive teams, etc.

TN Visas

TN status provides for the admission of Mexican and Canadian citizens who are coming to engage in professional activities as defined by North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  TNs are admitted for up to 3 years.  8 C.F.R. §214.6(e).  TN status is similar to H-1B status, however, in TN there is no specific wage or location requirement and no renewal limit, but the alien must show s/he has a home to go home to when they return.  Spouses of the applicant cannot get work authorization.

Can I get a greencard based on having a nonimmigrant visa?

A green card (also called a “permanent resident card”) is a long-term permit to live in the United States. For many, the process of applying for a green card based on employment begins with working for a U.S. company with a nonimmigrant visa. However, it’s important to understand that nonimmigrant visas are not green cards, and having a nonimmigrant visa does not mean that the visa holder is in line for a green card. The green card application process is a separate process from the process of applying for a nonimmigrant visa. If you’re ready to look at green card options, we’ll be posting another blog soon about employment-based permanent residence processes.

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5444 Westheimer Rd., Suite 1700
Houston, Texas 77056
United States(713) 625-9200

“Kathryn’s Law Firm has been an absolute wonderful experience to work with. They went above and beyond to get me my Visa to China when I was denied the first time. Kathryn is a true professional and is a step above her competition!!!” -Edward

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