USA Visas and Work Permits

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USA Visas, Work Permits and Migration  

Expanding into a country or hiring a workforce abroad can lead your business to great profits, but unfamiliar laws and regulations can counteract your company’s goals and plans. At Bradford Jacobs, we want to eliminate this complicated part. By using our PEO-service, we can arrange all needed visas and permits including the entire application process without your physical presence.

People wishing to visit, live or work in the United States require some form of documentation, as with all countries. The onus is on all travelers to investigate which visa, work permit or residence permit is required as there are many rules, regulations and government departments involved in processing the paperwork. 

People from all over the world are looking to live and work in the US and foreigners will be required to apply for a US work visa/permit; applicants need to know how to apply correctly and prepare the relevant documentation. The US State Department have introduced the Visa Wizard to advise which visa category might be appropriate for entering the US. 

Our team is trained to research the latest information on US visas and work permits - therefore, we created a guide to introduce you to the rules and requirements. By reading this guide you will get familiar with all the requirements so you or your employees can start working in the USA in no time.

What types of Work Visas and Permits for US are there?

There are a number of visa options when wanting to work in the US with distinct requirements, processes, and fees. There are also other considerations when deciding on the appropriate visa such as education and qualifications, nationality and how long the period of employment will be.

There are two main types of visas for foreign nationals who wish to travel to the US:

  • An Immigrant Visa (prior to obtaining Permanent Residence Visa – Green Card) for those who intend working and living permanently in the US.
  • A Non-immigrant Visa (also called a Temporary Resident Visa) issued for entering the US for tourism, business, temporary work, medical treatment, study, or similar reasons.

An Immigrant Visa allows permanent residency upon US entry followed by receipt of a Green Card. A Green Card is not easy to acquire as it permits people to live and work anywhere in the US without restriction.

However, employers must first file a petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An approved petition is required from them to apply for this work visa and approval does not automatically mean the applicant will be accepted.

There are five categories with various sub-groups of employment-based immigrant visas:

  • EB-1 For priority workers with special skills, multi-national business managers and executives
  • EB-2 For foreign nationals holding advanced degrees or with exceptional abilities
  • EB-3 For professionals, skilled and unskilled workers
  • EB-4 Special immigrants
  • EB-5 For foreign national investors

There are four main ways to obtain a Green Card:

  • Employment-based Green Cards
  • Family-sponsored Green Cards
  • Green Card lottery or Diversity Green Card
  • Political Asylum

A non-immigrant visa allows people to visit the US for short perm periods for tourism, medical reasons, study purposes and for business trips and temporary work.

Temporary worker visas are for persons entering the US for employment; these are intended for a fixed period. Employers need to first petition the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for approval to apply for the visa, although acceptance is not automatic.

Temporary Worker visa types of interest to company employers:

  • H-1B for those with a specialty occupation and higher educational qualifications
  • H-2B for non-agricultural employees from designated countries relevant to the interests of the US
  • L – for managers or executives to work at a branch, subsidiary, or associated company of their employer (blanket petition)
  • O – For highly skilled people regarding ability or achievements in certain areas including business

There is also a Visa Waiver Program, which allows nationals from countries in the scheme to stay up to 90 days for business or tourism if they have prior ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) approval. Countries included in the VWP, and requirements can be found here.

How to obtain a US Work Visa?

Applications are made through a local embassy or consulate in the country of residence. This is also where interviews are conducted to present documents. Information and forms are on the website and can be completed online.

Requirements must be fulfilled before applying for a work visa. These include:

  • A job must have been offered and accepted, so the employer can submit the appropriate paperwork to the relevant government department before submitting the visa application.
  •  The employer or third-party agent, such as Bradford Jacobs, applies to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) for the appropriate employment-based category. Approval does not automatically ensure the application will be accepted.
  • A Nonimmigrant Worker Petition needs Form I-129. Some categories have a limited number of petitions available annually.
  • Some visas also require certification from the Department of Labor, which should be applied for before the petition to the USCIS by the employer or third-party agent. Check on Forms 1-129 or 1-140 to see if one is required. This is a way of ensuring that foreign workers do not impact on jobs for US citizens.

NOTE: For both immigrant and nonimmigrant visas for workers, an approved petition is required to apply for a work visa.

Documentation required to apply for an Immigrant visa:

  1. Valid passport
  2. Photographs in the required format
  3. Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application signed and completed
  4. Civil documents are required and may be examined at the time of interview.
  5. Proof of financial stability is required, at interview, by the consular officer to confirm applicants will not become a ‘public charge’ in the United States – An Affidavit of Support (Form 1-864)
  6. Completed medical examination and vaccination forms

Certain conditions can make people ineligible to apply for a US work visa. See all conditions and waivers at this link.

Documentation required to apply for a Nonimmigrant visa:

  1. Application Form DS-160 - Complete application form online
  2. Upload photograph when completing DS-160
  3. Print out and retain for interview, the DS-160 barcode page with personal details
  4. Schedule an interview re visa. Go to US Embassy / Consulate website re interview and to pay visa fees.

How to apply for Work Visa/Work Permit for US

When applying for an Immigrant Visa:

  • Before applying, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has to approve the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker which is then referred to a US National Visa Centre (NVC). A case number is allocated, and a letter sent to applicants with details of how to ‘log on’ to the ‘Consular Electronic Application Centre’ (CEAC) to track their visa status.
  • The NVC will need all forms, fees, and other documentation. They are responsible for checking all the applicant’s paperwork is present and correct.
  • Once the NVC determines the file is complete with required documents, they book the interview at an Embassy or Consulate and send them the file and documents.
  • If the applicant does not have an attorney or third-party agent, such as Bradford Jacobs, Form DS-261 must be completed.
  • The attorney/third-party agent will be notified regarding time and date of interview, as well as instructions regarding medical examination and vaccines.
  • Digital fingerprints are taken.
  • Documentation may be returned at this stage.

Employment-based immigrant visas, as numbers in certain categories are limited annually may take longer to process which will be done in chronological order. Priority cases will be processes quicker, but applicant must ensure all the paperwork has been submitted and completed correctly.

When applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa

After USCIS has approved the Nonimmigrant Worker Petition:

  • Submit Form DS-160 electronically on the State Department’s website.
  • Schedule an appointment for the visa interview, generally at the US Embassy or Consulate in country of residence.
  • A receipt number, which is printed on the approval of the ‘petition for nonimmigrant worker’ Form I-129, is required in order to arrange an interview.

Consular Officers use the information from Form DS-160 to process the visa application and, combined with a personal interview, decide on an applicant’s eligibility for a Nonimmigrant Visa.

How much is a US Work Visa?

Fees for the visa and other application documents/procedures are as follows:

  • Immigration (immigrant) Petition for Alien Worker Form I-140 - US$700 (as of 2021)
  • Immigrant Visa Processing Fee based on 1-140 - US$345
  • Choice of address of attorney or agent DS-261 (if required) - US$325
  • The financial support form - US$120
  • Medical examination and vaccinations (costs vary)
  • Filing an Immigration Petition for Alien Worker Form I-129 - US$460
  • Nonimmigrant Alien Worker visa fees - US$190
  • Biometric Services - US$85

Other expenses may include fees for obtaining relevant documents, translation, police certificates, genealogy records etc.

Costs may vary for each country and details can be checked here.

Working Visa / Permit for US

A mass of paperwork, rules and regulations surround the process involved in applications. For those companies needing help in recruiting staff for their global expansion into the US, Bradford Jacobs’ Employer of Record (EOR) and Professional Employer Organization (PEO) global networks provide the answers.

We ensure all employees comply with work permit and visa regulations. This is what we do. But for companies who are going it alone in recruiting staff these are part of the process:

  • The individual will need a firm job offer and you will need confirmation of their acceptance.

  • There are a number of visa options, each having its own requirements, process, and fees:
    - For temporary work: Nonimmigrant Visa
    - For permanent work and residency: An Immigrant visa

  • Visas are based on specific occupations, and some will need a certification from the Department of Labor. This is to protect certain jobs for US citizens. Check the information on Forms 1-129 or 1-140.

  • Apply to USCIS for an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) or for Nonimmigrant Petition (Form 1-129) for the appropriate employment-based category. Approval does not automatically assure the application will be accepted.

  • The State Department’s Visa Wizard advises on appropriate visa categories. Check out the following link.

  • On approval of petition, application is then made in the employee’s home country, through the website or the National Visa Center and the local Embassy or Consulate for the appropriate visa.

  • When received this will act as an entry visa and permission to work in the US and the Green Card for Immigrant Visas will be issued. This allows permanent residency anywhere in the US.

To be able to work, persons who are already in the US and are applying for a visa for themselves and their family and are awaiting a Green Card need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) on Form I–765 Application for Employment Authorization. This will allow employment during the months prior to receiving the Green Card.

This does not include people who are applying for their work visa (immigrant and nonimmigrant) from outside of the US. Their permission to work starts when they enter the US and receive their Green Card.

US Business Visa

Business visas (visa category B-1) are for short-term trips to attend business meetings, conventions, or conferences, to network or sign contracts.

To apply:

  • Complete and print online Form DS-160
  • Upload photo while completing DS-160
  • Schedule an interview at the local US Embassy

Documents required:

  • Valid passport
  • Nonimmigrant Visa Form DS-160 confirmation page
  • Pay US$160 fee before interview and take receipt

Visa Waiver Program: Most citizens of participating nations may travel to the US for 90 days or less. This requires Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval, easily completed online. The documentation required includes:

  • A valid passport is required
  • A valid email address
  • Home address and phone number
  • Application fee of US$14

US Visa for EU Citizens

European Union nationals require a Nonimmigrant Work Visa, with a specific job offer. The petition must be approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before applying for the visa at a US Consulate or US Embassy. If they are looking to work long term and reside in the US, then they will require an Immigrant work visa.

For short business trips, an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) visa waiver is available to EU citizens without the need for the Business visa. 

US Visa for Canadian Citizens

The US and Canada have a special trade and economic relationship through The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Learn more here about visa requirements.

US Visa for Chinese Citizens

Chinese citizens who want to visit the US should apply for a B1 or B2 Visitors Visa. Whatever the reason for the trip e.g., business or pleasure, travelers from China require a passport with a valid 10-year US to register with the ‘Electronic Visa Update System’ (EVUS).

Applicants who meet the conditions will be vetted before approval. Both the visa and passport are ‘electronically linked’ to EVUS.

If Chinese nationals which to work in the US on a temporary basis, they will need to apply for a nonimmigrant work visa on form I-129.

They will require a job offer and the prospective employer will petition the US Citizenship and Immigration Services before applying for the visa which will be job specific.

US Visa for UK Citizens

Working in the United States for a short term will require UK citizens to apply for a Nonimmigrant Work Visa. No work is allowed on a business/visitor visa or using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) visa waiver.

In general, work visas on a job offer. A petition must also be filed and approved by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The approval from the USCIS is required before applying for the visa at an Embassy or Consulate in the applicant’s home country.

For short business trips, an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) visa waiver is available to UK citizens without the need for the Business visa.

For a long term/permanent employment position, an Immigrant Visa will be needed.

Call us now!

Expanding into the US? You will need a firm grip on work permit and visa compliance if planning to move your staff there. Contact us today for advice – and the other options.