Work Visa



If you want to work in the U.S. temporarily as a nonimmigrant, under U.S. immigration law, you need a specific visa based on the type of work you will be doing. Most temporary worker categories require that the applicant's prospective employer or agent 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 visa.

For more information about work visas, please see the Department of State website.

All applicants for H, L, O, P and Q visas must have a petition approved on their behalf by USCIS. The petition, Form I-129, must be approved before the prospective worker can apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. When the petition is approved, the employer or agent receives a Notice of Action, Form I-797, which serves as the petition approval notification. The consular officer will verify the petition approval through the Department of State's Petition Information Management Service (PIMS) at the visa applicant's interview. Visa applicants must bring the approved I-129 petition receipt number to the interview, so that petition approval can be verified. Approval of a petition does not guarantee visa issuance to an applicant found to be ineligible under U.S. immigration law.

Visa Descriptions and Qualifications

H-1B (specialty occupation): Required for an employee who is coming to the United States to perform services in a prearranged professional job. To qualify, the employee requires a bachelor's or higher degree (or equivalent) in the specific specialty for which employment authorization is being sought. USCIS will determine whether the employment constitutes a specialty occupation and whether the alien is qualified to perform the services. The employer is required file a labor condition application with the Department of Labor concerning the terms and conditions of the contract of employment.

H-2A (seasonal agricultural workers): 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. H-2A nonimmigrant classification applies to aliens seeking 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 a prospective worker's behalf.

H-2B visa (skilled and unskilled workers): Required for an employee who is 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. The employer is required to obtain a Department of Labor certification confirming that there are no qualified U.S. workers eligible for the employment on which the petition is based.

H-3 (trainee): Required by a trainee who is 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. The applicant can be paid and "hands-on" work is authorized. Training cannot be used to provide productive employment and cannot be available in the individual's home country.

H-4 (dependents): Spouses or unmarried children under 21 of the principal H visa holder may receive this visa to accompany the primary H visa holder to the United States. However, they are not permitted to work while in the United States.

L-1 (intra-company transferees): Required for employees of an international company who are being temporarily transferred 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, the employee 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, the employee must have been employed outside the United States with the international company continuously for one year within the three years preceding the application for admission into the United States. Individuals may only apply for L visas after their U.S. company or affiliate has received an approved petition from USCIS, either on a "blanket" or individual basis.

L-2 (dependents): Spouses or unmarried children under 21 of the principal L-1 visa holder may receive this derivative visa. Due to a recent change in the law, spouses of L visa holders may seek employment authorization. The spouse must enter the United States on his/her L-2 visa and submit a completed Form I-765 (obtainable from USCIS) along with an application fee. Children of L-1 visa holders are not authorized to work in the United States.

O visas: Issued to persons 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.

P (artists, entertainers) visas: Issued to certain athletes, entertainers and artists, and essential support personnel coming to perform in the United States.

Q visas: Issued to participants in an international cultural exchange program for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the alien's home country.  Visa applicants must have a petition filed on their behalf by the program sponsor and approved by USCIS.

Other Information

When to Apply: The Embassy may process your H, L, O, P or Q visa application up to 90 days prior to the beginning of employment status as noted on your I-797. However, when making your travel plans, please note that due to Federal regulations, you can only use the visa to apply for entry to the United States starting ten days prior to the beginning of the approved status period noted on your I-797.

Application Items

Each applicant for an H, L, O, P or Q visa must submit the following:

  • A Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application (DS-160) Form. Visit the DS-160 webpage for more information.
  • A passport valid for travel to the United States with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must submit an application.
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph. click here to see the required photo format.
  • A receipt showing payment of the nonimmigrant visa application processing fee (non-refundable) of US$150, payable in local currency. This page provides additional information about paying this fee. If the visa is issued, there may be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, depending on the applicant's nationality. Please consult the Visa Reciprocity Tables to find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.
  • For L-1 applicants on a blanket petition, click here to pay the fraud prevention and detection fee.
  • The receipt number printed on the approved I-129 petition. (Note: Form I-797 is no longer required for the interview.)

In addition to these items, every applicant must present an interview appointment letter confirming that they have booked an appointment through this service. Applicants may also bring whatever supporting documents they believe will help support the information being provided to the consular officer.

Consular officers look at each application individually and consider professional, social, cultural and other factors. Consular officers may look at the applicant's specific intentions, family situations, and long-range plans and prospects within his or her country of residence. Each case is examined individually and is accorded every consideration under the law.

Caution: Do not present false documents. Fraud or misrepresentation can result in permanent visa ineligibility. If confidentiality is of concern, the applicant should bring the documents to the Embassy in a sealed envelope. The Embassy will not make this information available to anyone and will respect the confidentiality of the information.

Supporting Documents

First time applicants may save time by bringing the following documents to their interview:

  • Evidence that establishes 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 for them.
  • If currently working on 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 :
    • Pay slips from current or most recent place of employment;
    • Names and current phone numbers of the personnel managers at your present and previous positions; and
    • Resume or CV.

All required documents for any non immigrant visa plus:

  • Original marriage (spouse) and/or birth certificates (unmarried children under 21) as applicable.
  • A letter from the spouse's employer confirming continued employment.
  • If your spouse is currently working in the United States on an H1-B visa, please submit the pay slips for the current calendar year and federal tax returns (IRS Form 1040 and W-2s) for all the years in which he/she has been employed in the United States on the H-1B visa.

For more information about H, L, O, P and Q visas, visit the Department of State's Temporary Workers webpage.