Work Visa

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FAQ


Overview

If you want to work in the United States temporarily as a nonimmigrant,  U.S. immigration law requires you to have a specific visa based on the type of work you will be doing. Most temporary worker categories require your prospective employer or agent to file a petition, which must be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States before you can apply for a work visa.

All applicants for H, L, O, P, Q and R visas must have a petition approved on their behalf by USCIS. The petition, Form I-129, must be approved before you can apply for a work visa at the Embassy or Consulate. When your petition is approved, your employer or agent will receive a Notice of Action, Form I-797, which serves as your petition's approval notification. The consular officer will verify your petition approval through the Department of State's Petition Information Management Service (PIMS) during your interview.

You must bring your I-129 petition receipt number to your interview at the Embassy or Consulate in order to verify your petition's approval. Please note that approval of a petition does not guarantee issuance of a visa if you are found to be ineligible for a visa under U.S. immigration law.

For petition information for blanket L visa applications, please see here.

Visa Descriptions and Qualifications

H-1B (specialty occupation)
An H-1B visa is required if you are coming to the United States to perform services in a pre-arranged professional job. To qualify, you must hold a bachelor's  degree or higher (or an equivalent degree) in the  specialty for which you seek employment. USCIS will determine whether your employment constitutes a specialty occupation and whether you are qualified to perform the services. Your employer is required to file a labor condition application with the Department of Labor concerning the terms and conditions of its contract of employment with you.

H-1B1 Treaty-based Temporary Work Visas
Free trade agreements signed with Chile and Singapore permit qualified Chilean and Singaporean citizens to temporarily work in the United States in certain circumstances on H-1B1 visa. Nationals of other countries are not eligible for this visa class,   although the spouses and children of Chilean and Singaporean principal applicants are eligible for derivative status even if they are  nationals of other countries.

Applicants for H-1B1 visas should already have a job offer from an employer in their chosen work area in the United States, but the employer does not have to file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and the applicant does not need to obtain a Notice of Approval, Form I-797 form before submitting the visa application. However, the petitioner does need to file an Application for Foreign Labor Certification with the Department of Labor prior to applying for the visa.  For more information on the H-1B1 visa, please visit here.

H-2A (seasonal agricultural workers)
An H-2A visa allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs for which U.S. workers are not available. An H-2A nonimmigrant classification applies to you if you seek to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature in the United States on a temporary basis. A U.S. employer (or an association of U.S. agricultural producers named as a joint employer) must file a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, on your behalf.

H-2B visa (skilled and unskilled workers)
This visa is required if you are coming to the United States to perform a job which is temporary or seasonal in nature and for which there is a shortage of U.S. workers. Your employer is required to obtain a Department of Labor certification confirming that there are no qualified U.S. workers eligible for the type of employment on which your petition is based.

H-3 (trainee)
An H-3 visa is required if you are coming to the United States to receive training from an employer in any field of endeavor, other than graduate education or training, for a period of up to two years. You can be paid for your training and "hands-on" work is authorized. Training cannot be used to provide productive employment and cannot be available in your home country.

H-4 (dependents)
If you are the principal holder of a valid H visa, your spouse or unmarried children (under age 21) may receive an H-4 visa to accompany you to the United States. However, your spouse/children are not permitted to work while in the United States.

There is no requirement that the spouse and/or children of an H-1 visa holder should apply for a student (F-1) visa if they wish to study in the U.S. They may study on an H-4 visa. However, if qualified, they may apply for an F-1 visa. If you have school-age children, you should refer to the regulations governing the issuance of F-1 visas.

The holder of an H-4 visa may not work on a derivative visa. If he/she is seeking employment, the appropriate work visa will be required.

L-1 (intra-company transferees)
An L-1 visa is required if you are the employee of an international company which is temporarily transferring you to a parent branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the same company in the United States. The international company may be either a U.S. or foreign organization. To qualify for an L-1 visa, you must be at the managerial or executive level, or have specialized knowledge and be destined to a position within the U.S. company at either of these levels, although not necessarily in the same position as held previously. In addition, you must have been employed outside the United States with the international company continuously for one year within the three years preceding your application for admission into the United States. You may only apply for an L-1 visa after your U.S. company or affiliate has received an approved petition from USCIS, either on a "blanket" or individual basis.

L-1 Blanket
Companies seeking the classification of multiple applicants as intra-company transferees may file a blanket petition with USCIS. The blanket petition ( provision is meant to serve only relatively large, established companies having multi-layered structures and numerous related business entities. The blanket petition provision is available only to managers, executives, and specialized knowledge. You may download the form from

L-2 (dependents)
If you are the principal holder of a valid L visa, your spouse or unmarried children (under age 21) may receive this derivative visa. Due to a recent change in the law, your spouse may seek employment authorization. In order to work, your spouse must enter the United States on his/her own L-2 visa and then submit a completed (obtainable from USCIS), along with an application fee. Your children are not authorized to work in the United States.

O
Type O visas are issued to people with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business and athletics, or extraordinary achievement in motion picture and television production, and their essential support personnel.

O-2 (persons accompanying an O-1)
The O-2 visa classification is for athletes and members of the entertainment industry who are an integral part of a performance, possessing skills and experience not available in the United States. Such persons may apply for O-2 visas to accompany an O-1 visa holder.

P (artists, entertainers)
Type P visas are issued to certain athletes, entertainers, artists and essential support personnel who are coming to perform in the United States.

P-2 (artists or entertainers)
The P-2 visa classification provides for the admission into the United States of an artist or entertainer, either an individual or group, involved in a reciprocal exchange program between an organization or organizations in the United States and one or more foreign countries which provides for the temporary exchange of artists and entertainers.

P-3 (artists or entertainers)
The P-3 visa classification provides for the admission into the United States of an artist or entertainer, either an individual or group, to perform, teach, or coach under a program that is culturally unique.

Q
A Q visa is required if you are traveling to the United States to participate in an international cultural exchange program for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of your home country. You must have a petition filed on your behalf by the program sponsor and the petition must be approved by USCIS.

R (Religious Workers)
Religious workers include persons authorized by a recognized entity to conduct religious worship and undertake other duties usually performed by authorized members of the clergy of that religion, and workers engaging in a religious vocation or occupation. You must meet the following criteria if you seek a religious worker visa:

  • You must be a member of a religious denomination recognized as a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the U.S.
  • Your religious denomination and its affiliate, if applicable, must be either exempt from taxation or qualify for tax-exempt status.
  • You must have been:
    • a member of your denomination for the two years immediately preceding your application for religious worker status
    • planning to work as a minister of your denomination, or in a religious occupation or vocation for a bona fide, nonprofit religious organization (or a tax-exempt affiliate of such an organization)
    • residing and physically present outside the U.S. for the immediate prior year, if you have previously spent five years in this category.

For more detailed information regarding the filing of Form I-129, as well as requirements, please refer to the USCIS R-1 Temporary Nonimmigrant Religious Worker web page

When to Apply

The U.S. Embassy/Consulate may process your H, L, O, P, Q or R visa application up to 90 days prior to the beginning of employment status as noted on your I-797. For H, L, O, P or Q visa categories, you can only use the visa to apply for entry to the United States starting ten days prior to the beginning of your employment start date, as noted on your Form I-797 or Form I-129S. R visa holders may only apply for entry to the U.S. on or after the date of their I-797 approval notice.

Application Items (required)

If you apply for an H, individual L, O, P, Q or R visa, you must submit the following:

  • A Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) Form. Visit the DS-160 website for more information about the DS-160.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person desiring a visa must submit an application.
  • Your expired passports issued within the past 10 years
  • One color photograph 2"x2" (5cmx5cm) taken within the past 6 months against a white background (Please attach your photo to the upper left corner of the DS-160 confirmation page).  Click here for more information about photos. Please note applicants are not permitted to wear eyeglasses in photos.
  • An interview appointment letter confirming that you booked an appointment through this service.
  • The receipt number printed on either your approved I-129 petition or your I-797 Petition Approval Notice.

If you are an L-1 applicant using a blanket petition and your employer already has blanket approval to send intra-company transferees, you will be required to submit the following items with your application documents:

  • One (1) copy of form I-129S filled out with your position.
    You may download the form from the USCIS website. (Edition Date: 09/03/21. Previous editions are not accepted. You can find the edition date at the bottom of the form.)
  • One (1) complete copy of your employer’s blanket L I-797 Petition Approval Notice, including the full list of subsidiaries and affiliated companies in the U.S. (if applicable); * Note: Please provide the I129S form and I-797 approval notice attached together. Place the I-129S form on top of the I-797 approval notice.
  • One (1) copy of the recommendation letter from your employer

NOTE: Applicants should not submit other documents such as company’s annual report, financial statement, pamphlet/brochure unless a Consular officer requests them during the adjudication.

Important Reminder to Blanket L-1 visa applicants:

  • Blanket L-1 applicants must pay an additional $500 fraud prevention and detection fee as well as the $4,500 Consolidated Appropriations Act fee if certain conditions apply. The fee(s) can be paid in cash (either yen or dollars ) or with a credit card. Please be prepared to pay with cash if the credit card verification system is temporarily unavailable. Payment by credit card is billed in US dollars.
  • You will need to present the approved I-129S form to the immigration officer when travelling to the United States. We strongly recommend that you make a copy of the form after you receive it with your visa.

Non-Japanese applicants must also include:

  • Photocopy (both sides) of the Japanese Alien Registration Card or “Zairyu” card

In addition to these items, please also bring any documents you believe support your application. If your visa is issued, you may have to pay an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, depending on your nationality.  Click here for more information about visa issuance reciprocity fees.

How to Apply

Application procedures vary between consular posts. Click here for complete details.

Supporting Documents (optional)

Supporting documents are just one of many factors a consular officer will consider in your interview. Consular officers look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors during adjudication. Consular officers may look at your specific intentions, family situation, and your long-range plans and prospects within your country of residence. Each case  is accorded every consideration under the law.

 If you are a first time visa applicant, you may save time by bringing the following documents to your interview. English translations must be attached to all documents.

  • Evidence that establishes your job qualifications, including any university diplomas.
  • Original letters from current and previous employers detailing your position and projects you worked on and how long you worked with your employers.
  • If you are currently working and holding an H-1B visa, please submit your pay slips for the current calendar year and your Federal tax returns (IRS Form 1040 and W-2) for all the years in which you have been employed in the United States. You should bring:
    • pay slips from your current or most recent place of employment
    • the names and current phone numbers of the personnel managers at your present and previous places of employment
    • your resume or CV

Caution: Do not present false documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in permanent visa ineligibility.

Dependents

Your dependents should bring all required documents for any nonimmigrant visa, plus the following materials. English translations must be attached to all documents:

  •  Proof of relationship to the principal applicant (e.g. marriage/birth certificate, family register)
  • A copy of the I-797
  • A copy of the principal applicant's visa if dependents apply for their visas at a later date.

More Information

For more information, visit the Department of State's Temporary Workers webpage for H, L, O, P and Q visas and the Temporary Religious worker Visa website for R visas.