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Working In The United States: Temporary and Permanent US Work Visas

To permanently or temporarily work in the US as a foreign national, you will likely need to obtain a US work visa. Read the information we have provided below to learn more about the process, the requirements, and more!

Flag IconUS Work Visas

Depending on the kind of work you are seeking or have experience in already, there are a number of different options for individuals seeking temporary employment in the States. These include temporary skilled worker visas, investor visas, and business visitor visas, among others. 

Learn more about Temporary Work Visa options.

Each year, many people obtain their green cards through employment based preferences, giving them permanent resident status in the US. The employment-based category is divided into five sections: EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4, and EB-5. If you are interested in working in the US, you may be eligible to obtain a Green Card under one of these categories.

Learn more about Employment-Based Green Cards below!

There are a couple visas that allow young adults interested in higher education or looking to come train in the United States. Some of these options allow one to work in the United States!

Learn more about work visas for students and exchange visitors below!

The United States has created a visa specifically for those coming to the US temporarily for business reasons. This allows business individuals to come do a number of work and/or business-related things like attending a conference, take a meeting, and more!

Learn more about your business visitor visa option below!

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), citizens of Canada or Mexico with a job offer in the US may be eligible for a TN temporary work visa. This allows a qualified individual to obtain a work visa quickly and with minimal documentation. The US job offer must be from a list of occupations defined by NAFTA. If you are a citizen of Mexico or Canada, the TN visa may be an attractive option.

Learn more about your TN Visa through USMCA below!

How to Get a Temporary Work Visa in the United States

If you are interested in working in the United States, you may be interested in either obtaining a temporary work visa or an employment-based green card. A variety of temporary work visas exist, and each will allow you to stay in the US for a specific or definite amount of time. By obtaining an employment-based green card, you will be considered a permanent resident due to your employment status. Each option has different requirements, and it is important to determine for which you may be eligible.

To work in the United States, you must obtain a work visa to be employed in the country legally. There are several different types of work visas available for foreigners who are interested in working in the United States temporarily. 

Types of Temporary US Work Visas

The most common temporary work visas in the United States include:

  • H-1B Visas
  • E Visas
  • L Visas
  • O Visas
  • NAFTA Work Visa

Many times it depends on what type of occupation you will perform in the US that decides which visa is best for you. Some other factors that make this decision can include whether you have a relationship with an employer, how long you’ll be employed in the United States, and what degree of skill it takes to perform the job.

US Work Visa Processing Times

Temporary Work Visas: 5 to 7 months

Employment-Based Green Cards: 6 to 33 months

Learn more about US Work Visa Processing Times in 2022.

Top Temporary US Work Visa Options

H-1B Visa (Skilled Workers)

An H-1B visa is a temporary US work permit that allows foreigners to work within “specialty occupations” for US employers. This means that your employment in the United States cannot be for just any type of work; the work performed must involve a high level of skill such as in a professional occupation. Most applicants under the H-1B work visa category are highly educated with a university degree. However, high education is not always necessary. Some H-1B visas can be granted to applicants with little education but with lots of work experience.

Other H category visas:

E1 and E2 Visas (Treaty Traders & Treaty Investors)

E-1 Visa

The E-1 or Treaty Trader visa is a nonimmigrant visa for citizens of countries that the US has a treaty of commerce with. While not all countries are eligible, business owners from those that are may qualify if they meet several criteria. 

E-2 Visa

If you wish to work in the US by starting or investing in a US business, an E-2 Visa may be an option for you. E visas are US work visas for people working in the US investment. E visas can only be issued to countries where there is a treaty between the foreign national’s country and the USA.

L1 Visa (Intra-Company Transfers)

If you are expanding your business to the US or being transferred to an existing American business, the L-1 visa is most likely the best type of visa for you. L-1 visas are available to employees working for companies outside the United States such as in Canada that have branchessubsidiariesaffiliates or joint venture partners in the United States. The L-1 Visa has two categories, which include:

  • L-1A
  • L-1B

O-1 Visa (Extraordinary Abilities)

The O-1 temporary visa is intended for people who possess extraordinary skills in arts, sciences, business, education, or athletics, or who have a solid track record of extraordinary performance in the motion picture and television industry and have been identified and acknowledged domestically and internationally for their excellence.

NAFTA Work Permit

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trade deal between Canada, the US, and Mexico that was implemented in 1994 but was re-written and named in 2018. NAFTA seeks to eliminate trade barriers between the three countries, such as tariffs on goods, with the goal of encouraging economic integration among them and economic prosperity. 

Other Temporary Work Visas to Explore

  • P Visas (Entertainment & Performance Workers)
  • R-1 Visa (Religious Workers)

How to Get a Permanent Work Visa in the United States

Permanent residents, other known as green card holders, are non-US citizens who are authorized to live and work permanently in the United States. Many people obtain their green card through a family-based green card or employment-based green card. Each year many applicants are awarded green cards in employment-based categories such as:

  • EB-1 Green Card 
  • EB-2 Green Card
  • EB-3 Green Card
  • EB-4 Green Card
  • EB-5 Green Card

Permanent US Employment-Based Green Cards

EB-1 Visa (Priority Workers)

The EB-1 Green Card, First Preference visa category was created for priority workers looking to live in the United States. More specifically, those eligible for an EB-1 visa would need to fall under the following categories:

  • EB-1A: Extraordinary Ability
  • EB-1B: Outstanding Professors and Researchers
  • EB-1C: Multinational Manager or Executive

EB-2 Visa (Advanced Degree Professionals)

The EB-2 immigrant visa category is within the Immigration Act for those interested in US permanent residency. It was created for foreign nationals who hold an advanced degree, exceptional abilities or are looking to waive their labor certification requirement.  The three visas that fall under the second preference category include: 

  • EB-2A: Advanced Degree
  • EB-2B: Exceptional Ability
  • EB-2C: National Interest Waiver (NIW)

EB-3 Visa (Skilled, Unskilled, & Professional Workers)

The EB-3 Green Card is a permanent residence category based on work experience. Workers that are competent, professional, or “other” fall into the third preferred group. Those that obtain an EB-3 Green Card who are considered skilled, unskilled, or professional workers

EB-4 Visa (Special Immigrants)

The EB-4 category  is an immigrant visa preference category for “exceptional immigrants.” If a person satisfies the qualifications for special immigrant status, they may apply for legal permanent resident (LPR) status in the EB4 category. There are two main categories of the EB-4 visa but in addition to these there are several other categories:

  • Religious Workers
  • Special Immigrant Juveniles

EB-5 Visa (Investors)

The EB-5 immigrant investor visa category was created within the Immigration Act to attract foreign capital to the US and create jobs for American workers in the process. Ultimately, the investor would then be entitled to apply for US permanent residence.

Student and Exchange Visitors

There are a few temporary visas that were created specifically for student and exchange visitors. A lot of those who obtain one of the following have the chance to possibly adjust their status to a green card.

F-1 Student Visa

The F-1 “Academic Student” visa is meant for individuals who plan to study at an academic institution (including accredited colleges, universities, seminaries, conservatories, and academic high school and elementary schools) or language training program. To qualify, the program in which you are enrolled must culminate in the receipt of a degree, diploma, or certificate and the school must be authorized by the US government to accept international students.

M Student Visas

The M-1 “Vocational Student” visa is meant for students in vocational or other non-academic programs, other than language training.

J -1 Exchange Visitor Visa

The J-1 visa is used by international visitors to enter the United States temporarily for educational or cultural exchange purposes. Participants of the Exchange Visitor Program are expected to return to their respective home countries to utilize the skills that they acquire while in the US.

Temporary US Business Visas

B-1 Business Visitor Visa

If you are entering the United States for business purposes, you may require a B-1 visa. The B-1 visa is a very fast and relatively simple means of visiting the United States for business purposes. Canadians, in particular, are usually are not issued formal B-1 visas but rather receive a stamp on their passport admitting them on B-1 Status, which they can obtain at a US/Canadian port of entry.

NAFTA Based Visa

TN Visa

The NAFTA-based TN visa was specifically designed for Canadians and Mexicans looking to work in the United States. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), now also referred to as the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) allowing these individuals to work in the US as a result in goods, services, or investment trades. The visa is known for being very quick to process and a great option for those looking to avoid the LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) requirement.

How To Adjust Your Temporary Status to Green Card

If you didn’t qualify for a permanent residency Green Card, no worries, because you may have the chance to adjust your status in the future. You can do this through any of the EB Green Cards through employment or Family Sponsorship.

Steps to Adjust Temporary Status

  1. Determine if you are eligible for a US Green Card
  2. File your immigrant petition
  3. Check visa availability
  4. File Form I-485
  5. Attend your biometrics appointment
  6. Go to your immigration interview (if needed)
  7. Submit additional supporting documents (if needed)

With so many applicants each year from around the world applying for US Work Permits, it is important to get experienced legal help that will ensure your application package has the best chance of being accepted. Missed or incorrect details can result in a visa refusal, which can be unsettling after all the effort you put into your application. If you are ready to apply for a temporary or permanent US work visa, book a consultation or contact us to speak with an immigration professional.