If you are applying for a petition based visa, your prospective employer is required to file an employment based petition on your behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Further information is available from the USCIS website. The instructions on filing a petition will vary with each visa category, it is important therefore, to read the information carefully. We cannot answer any questions concerning the steps involved in filing the petition.
Once the petition has been approved by USCIS and you are in possession of either the Notice of Action, Form I-797 or Petition Receipt number, you may apply for the visa by following the instructions under “How to Apply”.
If your spouse, partner and/or children under the age of 21 wish to accompany or join you for the duration of your stay, they may be eligible to apply for derivative visas. Click here for more information. (Please note, there is no derivative visa status for the spouse and child of the holder of a Q-1 visa)
H-1B Visa - Speciality Occupation
If you are traveling to the United States to perform services in a prearranged professional job for a U.S. employer, you will require an H-1B visa.
To qualify, you will require a bachelor’s or higher degree (or equivalent) in the specific specialty for which employment authorization is being sought. It is the responsibility of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to determine whether the employment constitutes a specialty occupation and whether or not you are qualified to perform the services.
Your prospective employer is required to file an employment based petition, form I-129H, on your behalf with USCIS but before doing so, is required to file a labor condition application with the Department of Labor concerning the terms and conditions of your contract of employment. Further information is available from USCIS.
H-2B Visa - Skilled and Unskilled Worker
If you are traveling to the United States perform a job which is temporary or seasonal in nature and for which there is a shortage of U.S. workers, you may be eligible for an H-2 visa.
Your prospective employer is required to file an employment based petition, form I-129H, on your behalf with USCIS, but before doing so, is required to obtain from the Department of Labor, labor certification confirming that there are no qualified U.S. workers eligible for the employment on which the petition is based.
H-3 Visa - Trainee
If you are traveling to the United States to receive training from an employer in any field of endeavor, other than graduate medical education or training, you may be eligible for an H-3 visa. Please note, that the training cannot be used to provide productive employment and cannot be available in your home country.
Your prospective employer is required to file a petition, form I-129H, on your behalf with the USCIS to obtain approval for the training.
L-1 Intra-Company Transfer Visa
If you are an employee of an international company who is being temporarily transferred to a parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the same company in the United States, you will require an Intra-Company transfer (L-1) visa. The international company may be either a U.S. or foreign organization, and 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 the application for admission into the United States.
If you believe that you qualify for the L-1 visa, your employer is required to file an employment based petition, form I-129H, on your behalf with USCIS. Any questions which you may have concerning this process should be addressed to USCIS.
Companies seeking the classification of multiple aliens 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 professionals that are destined to work in an established office.
Opening an Office
An L-1 visa is the appropriate visa classification for a qualified employee of an international company who is coming to the United States to establish a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary in the United States, i.e. commence business.
When filing the petition, the international company will be required to show that sufficient physical premises to house the new office have been secured and that within one year of the approval of the petition, the intended U.S. operation will support an executive or managerial position. In the case of a person with specialized knowledge, the petitioner is required to show that it has the financial ability to remunerate the beneficiary and to commence doing business in the United States.
A petition for a qualified employee of a new office will be approved for a period not to exceed one year, after which the petitioner must demonstrate that it is doing business as described above in order for the petition and alien’s stay to be extended beyond one year.
O-1/O-2 Visa - Persons with Extraordinary Ability & Members of the Entertainment Profession, Athletes, Artists, Entertainers & Support Personel
Individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business and athletics, or extraordinary achievement in motion picture and television production are eligible for O-1 visas. Only individuals qualify for the O-1 visa category; in order for a group to qualify, each member is required to meet the extraordinary ability test. The visa is granted for a specific event, such as a tour, lecture series or project.
Individuals accompanying an athlete or member of the entertainment industry to assist in a specific event or performance may apply for O-2 visas. To qualify you must be an integral part of the performance or essential to the production and have critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker.
Your sponsor is required to file a petition, Form I-129, on your behalf with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and should contact them for further information. If you are traditionally self-employed or use agents to arrange short-term employment with numerous employers, an agent may file the petition on your behalf. An agent may also file a petition on behalf of a foreign employer. It is the responsibility of the USCIS to determine whether you meet the extraordinary ability test. Applicants are required to provide proof of an approved petition for the sponsoring O-1 at the time of their interview.
P-1/P-2/P-3 Visa - Athletes, entertainers and artists and their essential support personnel
Athletes, entertainers and artists and their essential support personnel may apply for P-1 visas. Individual members of the entertainment industry are not eligible for the P-1 visa classification, but individual athletes are. For members of the entertainment industry, the visa will be issued for a specific event only. However, individual athletes may be admitted for five years and a team for a period of six months.
Artists and entertainers, either individuals or a group who are 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 may apply for P-2 visas.
Artists and entertainers, either individuals or a group who are to perform, teach, or coach in the United States under a program that is culturally unique may apply for P-3 visas.
In the case of the P-1, P-2 and P-3 visa, your sponsor is required to file a petition, Form I-129, on your behalf with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and should contact them for further information.
If you are traditionally self-employed or use agents to arrange short-term employment with numerous employers, an agent may file the petition on your behalf. An agent may also file a petition on behalf of a foreign employer. It is the responsibility of the USCIS to determine whether you meet the extraordinary ability test.
Q-1 Visa - International Cultural Exchange
Participants in an international cultural exchange program designed to provide practical training, employment and sharing of the participant’s native culture, require classification Q visas.
The training/employment must be approved in advance by the office United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States on the basis of a petition, form I-129, filed by the U.S. sponsor.
A new petition must be filed each time a qualified employer wants to bring additional persons into the United States in Q status.
Before a petition may be filed with the USCIS, the following criteria must be met:
The cultural exchange program:
- The culture-sharing must take place in a school, museum,
business or other establishment where the public is exposed to aspects of a foreign culture as part of a structured program;
- The cultural component must be an essential and integral part of the participant’s employment and training, and must be designed to exhibit the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy and/or tradition of the alien’s country of nationality; and
• The employment and training may not be independent of the cultural component;
• The organization must demonstrate that it has the ability to conduct a responsible international cultural exchange program and has the financial ability to remunerate the participant and offer him/her wages and working conditions comparable to those accorded local domestic workers similarly employed;
• The applicant must be at least 18 years of age, qualified to perform the stated service or labor or receive the specified type of training and have the ability to communicate effectively about his/her culture.
R-1 Visa - Religious Ministers or Workers
Religious ministers or workers may qualify for the religious worker classification “R” visa if, for the two years immediately preceding the time of application, they have been a member of a religious denomination which has a bona fide nonprofit religious organization in the United States. Bona fide religious organizations in the United States must have tax exempt status as an organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
If you are seeking R status you must be entering the United States solely to:
- Carry on the vocation of a minister of the religious denomination; or
- Work in a professional capacity in a religious vocation or occupation or organization within the denomination; or
- Work in a religious vocation or occupation for an organization within the denomination, or for a bona fide organization which is affiliated with the religious denomination. Bona fide religious organizations in the United States must have tax exempt status as an organization described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
Your employment must be approved in advance by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States on the basis of a petition, Form I-129, filed by the United States employer.