Foreign citizens must typically first apply for a US visa to enter the country. The complicated visa system has various categories and many are for specific purposes and apply to specific groups.
The US State Department introduced the Visa Wizard to advise which visa category might be appropriate. Check out the following link:
The Visa Waiver Program 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 at:
What types of work visas/permits are there in the USA?
There are two main types for foreign nationals.
- An Immigrant Visa (prior to obtaining Permanent Residence Visa – Green Card) to live and work permanently in the US
- A Non-immigrant Visa (or Temporary Resident Visa) for tourism, business, temporary work, medical treatment, study or similar reasons
An “Immigrant Visa" allows permanent residency immediately upon entry, followed by a Green Card to stay in the US for life and work anywhere.
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
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
For both immigrant and non-immigrant visas, employers are still required to file a petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An approved petition is required from them to apply for a work visa.
What are the requirements to obtain a USA Work Visa?
- A job must have been accepted so the employer can submit the appropriate paperwork to the relevant government department
- The employer or third party agent, such as Bradford Jacobs, must apply to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the appropriate employment-based category. Approval does not guarantee the application will be accepted
- A Non-immigrant Worker Petition needs Form I-129.
- Some visas also require certification from the Department of Labor, ensuring foreign workers do not impact on jobs for US Citizens
Documentation required to apply for an Immigrant Visa:
- Valid passport. Review instruction at: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/the-immigrant-visa-process/step-10-prepare-for-the-interview.html
- Photographs in the required format: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/photos.html
- Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/forms/online-immigrant-visa-forms.html
- Civil documents are required and may be asked for in interview. See what is required here: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/the-immigrant-visa-process/step-8-scan-collected-documents/step-9-upload-and-submit-scanned-documents.html
- Financial stability must be proved at interview
- Completed medical examination and vaccination forms: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/immigrate/vaccinations.html
Certain conditions make applicants ineligible. See all conditions and waivers at this link: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/waivers.html
Documentation required to apply for a Non-immigrant Visa:
- Application Form DS-160 https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/forms/ds-160-online-nonimmigrant-visa-application.html
- Upload photograph when completing DS-160
- Application form confirmation page needed for interview
Applying for Work Visa in the USA
After the USCIS approves the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, the National Visa Centre (NVC) assigns a case number.
- A Form DS-261 must be completed if the applicant does not have an attorney or third party agent, such as Bradford Jacobs
The appropriate fees must be paid, after which all immigrant visa documents should be submitted including application form
- Once the NVC determines the file is complete with required documents, they schedule the applicant’s interview
- The applicant must take a valid passport and any other documents not already provided to NVC
- Digital fingerprints will be taken
Employment-based immigrant visas are in numerically limited categories.
When applying for a Non-immigrant Visa, after USCIS has approved the Non-immigrant Worker Petition, Form DS-160 is submitted electronically to the Department of State website, generally at the US Embassy or Consulate in country of residence.
Documents for interview:
- Valid Passport
- Non-immigrant Visa Application DS-160 confirmation page
- Receipt for application fee
- Petition approval receipt (I-129)
How much is a USA Work Visa?
Fees are charged for:
Filing an Immigration Petition for Alien Worker Form I-140 - $555 as of October 2020
Choice of address of attorney or agent DS-261 (if required) - $325
Financial support form - $120
Medical examination and vaccinations (costs vary)
Other expenses may include fees for obtaining relevant documents, translation, police certificates etc.
For Non-immigrant Alien Worker visa fees: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/visa-information-resources/fees/fees-visa-services.html
Costs may vary from country to country and details can be checked here:
Working Visa USA
Everyone moving to the USA to work needs a work visa, whether for short business trips, temporary fixed-time work periods or to live and work on a permanent basis.
- For temporary work: Non-immigrant Visa should be applied for
- For permanent residency: An Immigrant Visa is required
In general, work visas are based on specific employment offers and a petition must be filed and approved by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before applying at their local US Embassy or Consulate.
The State Department’s Visa Wizard to advises on appropriate visa categories. Check out the following link:
Business Visa USA
Business visas (visa category B-1), are for short-term trips to attend business meetings, conventions or conferences.
- Complete an print online Form DS-160
- Upload photo while completing DS-160
- Schedule an Interview at the local US Embassy
- Valid passport
- Non-immigrant Visa Form DS-160 confirmation page
- Pay $160 fee before interview and take receipt
Visa Waiver Program: Most citizens of participating nations may travel for 90 days or less. This requires ESTA approval, easily completed online. https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/
- A valid passport is required
- A valid email address
- Home address and phone number
- Application fee of $14
USA Work Visa for EU and UK citizens
United Kingdom or European Union nationals require a Non-immigrant 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 Embassy or Consulate.
For a long term/permanent employment position, an Immigrant Visa will be needed. Check the link at: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/visa-waiver-program/requirements-immigrant-and-nonimmigrant-visas
USA Visa for Canadian citizens
The US and Canada have special economic and trade relationships through The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Learn more here about visa requirements.
USA Visa for Chinese citizens
All Chinese nationals must apply for a B1 or B2 visitor visa. All applications are screened and documents including the passport and visa are linked to the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS).