There are a dizzying variety of nonimmigrant visa options for an individual to come to the United States. The majority of these purposes require the foreign national to obtain a “visa stamp” at a US consulate outside the US first, in order to be admitted to the US. Furthermore, many of these statuses also require a petition to be approved in advance by the US Immigration Service (known as US CIS).
Who is Eligible?
The purposes for which an individual can come to the United States legally are varied, and popular reasons range from visits for business or pleasure, studying at an approved educational institution, working for a US business, hospital, university, church or other recognized entity, investing in an enterprise in the US, conducting research, and receiving training. This list is not at all exclusive.
About the Process:
A skilled immigration attorney can examine your specific situation (or that of your potential employee, friend or relative) and provide a comprehensive analysis of the options available. The immigration attorney can then advise on a realistic timeline and a fair statement of costs, guide you through the process of applying, and ensure that the foreign national is properly admitted to the US. Along the way a skilled immigration attorney can answer important questions or concerns regarding family members, what questions may be asked by government officials at the time of entry to the US or visa application, and help provide guideposts in the process.
H-1B: For those foreign nationals that will work in a “specialty occupation” and have a US employer willing to file paperwork on their behalf. The occupation must typically require the attainment of at least a Bachelors Degree in a particular field, or its equivalent, and the foreign national must have a Bachelors Degree or its equivalent. The number of H-1Bs available each year is very limited and in the past few years has run out well in advance of the end of the fiscal year. The employment start date is October 1, although filings to the Immigration Service can start on April 1 of the same year. Employees seeking to change employers are often not subject to numerical limits and can begin working at anytime in the year. Family members are granted H-4 status, but spouses are not able to obtain work permission.
L-1A/L-1B: For those foreign nationals that have had one full year of full-time employment outside the U.S. within the preceding three years with a parent, affiliate, branch or subsidiary of the US company. They must have worked as a manager or executive (L-1A) or as a person with specialized knowledge (L-1B). Under the current law there is no limit on the number of individuals that can be granted L-1 status. Family members are entitled to L-2 status, and spouses are entitled to apply for a work permit.
O-1: For those applicants who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim and who are coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability. Extraordinary ability means a level of expertise indicating that the individual is one of that small percentage who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor. Under the current law there is no limit on the number of individuals that can be granted O-1status. Family members are entitled to O-3 status, but spouses are not able to obtain work permission.
E-1/E-2: For nationals of any of the countries with which an appropriate treaty of commerce and navigation exists, who is coming to the U.S. to carry on substantial trade (E-1), principally between the U.S. and his own country, or to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which he has invested (E-2), or is actively in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital.
E-3: For nationals of Australia that qualify for H-1B status. The total number is limited, but this limit has never been reached. Can be applied for directly at a US Consulate or done via application in the US. Spouses are not required to be Australian, and are entitled to apply for work permission in the US.
TN (Trade Nafta): For Canadian or Mexican citizens that come to the US to work in a specified set of occupations which are listed on the North American Free Trade Treaty. This includes Accountants, Engineers and Scientists, among others. With very limited exceptions, requires the applicant to possess a Bachelor’s degree or higher. Can be applied for directly at approved land border crossings or international airports. Family members are entitled to TD status, but spouses are not able to obtain work permission.
J-1: For exchange visitors participating in an exchange program approved by the Department of State. Covers a very wide range of occupations from au pair to professor and research scholar.
B-1/B-2: For visitors for Business (B-1) or for pleasure (B-2). B-1 status allows foreign nationals that are employed by a company abroad to enter the US for a short period (up to six months with a visa) to engage in training or other activities that could benefit the foreign employer. Neither B-1 nor B-2 allows a foreign national to engage in employment for a US employer while in the US. Nationals of certain countries can enter for up to 90 days without an actual visa stamp under the ESTA visa waiver program.
At the Law Office of Adrienne J. Vaughan, we realize that selecting and obtaining the correct nonimmigrant visa status to fit your need is an extremely complex process. We also realize that your time and money invested in the process are both valuable and limited. In light of this, we anticipate that you will have numerous questions along the way and welcome you to ask them all so that you feel confident in the process.
We have over a decade of experience advising companies, foreign nationals, family and friends about options available to them or their colleagues. No individual is too small or company too large to merit our undivided attention to your particular needs.
Call or email us for a no cost /no obligation phone discussion about your matter.