Professional and Specialty Occupations
H-1B Specialty Occupations
The H-1B visa allows employers in the United States to employ foreign nationals in a specialty occupation on a temporary basis. In order to be considered a specialty occupation, it must meet the following requirements:
- Theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge
- Attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher or its equivalent in the specific specialty; meets one of the following criteria:
a. Bachelor’s or higher degree or its equivalent is normally the minimum entry requirement for the position;
b. The degree requirement for the job is common to the industry or the job is so complex or unique that it can be performed only by an individual with a degree;
c. The employer normally requires a degree or its equivalent for the position; or
d. The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is usually associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.
Professions that may qualify for an H-1B visa run a broad spectrum. Some professionals with progressively responsible and lengthy experience may even qualify for the H-1B even though they have not earned a Bachelor’s degree.
This visa does not require maintenance of foreign residence and approval of an application for labor certification. The filling of an immigrant visa also does not prevent the applicant to be granted an H-1B1 visa or an extension of such visa.
How do I qualify for this visa? To accept a specialty occupation job offer, you must meet one of the following criteria:
- Have completed a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree required by the specific specialty occupation from an accredited college or university;
- Hold a foreign degree that is the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s or higher degree in the specialty occupation;
- Hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification which authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation and be engaged in that specialty in the state of intended employment; or
- Have education, training, or progressively responsible experience in the specialty that is equivalent to the completion of such a degree, and have recognition of expertise in the specialty through progressively responsible positions directly related to the specialty.
How long can I stay in the US on this visa? The H-1B visa holder may stay in the U.S. for the duration of the Petition approval from three to six years. In some instances, the H-1B visa holder may qualify for an H-1B extension beyond the six-year maximum.
Can I apply for a Green Card while on this visa? Yes, the H-1B visa is a dual intent visa.
H-1B Portability and Change of Employment
The American Competitiveness in the 21st Century Act (AC21) allows an H-1B worker to change employers and begin working for that new employer as soon as the new employer has filed an H-1B change of employer petition. It is important that the H-1B worker be in valid H-1B status when switching employers. Also, the H-1B worker must work in the same occupation.
H-1B1 Chilean and Singaporean Specialty Occupations
The HIB1 Visa is a nonimmigrant professional visa for Chilean or Singaporean nationals meeting the “specialty occupation” definition. In addition to the professions that normally qualify as specialty occupations in the H1B visa, Chilean and Singaporean agricultural managers, physical therapists, consultants and disaster relief claims adjusters may also apply for the H1B1 visa.
How long can I stay in the US on this visa? Professionals with H-1B1 visa are allowed to stay in the US for one year and extension may be granted in one year increments.
Can I apply for A Green Card on this Visa? Yes, an H-1B1 visa holder may apply for the green card.
E-3 Australian Specialty Occupations
The E-3 visa is granted exclusively to Australian nationals who meet the qualifications of a professional in a specialty occupation making it similar to an H-1B visa. Although visas of this type have a cap of 10,500 per fiscal year, it is not subject to the annual quota of H-1B visas. The E-3 visa allows the spouse, who need not be an Australian citizen, to work in the United States.
How long can I stay in the US on this visa? The visa may be renewed indefinitely in two-year increments but would need to depart the U.S. at the end of their term.
TN Canadian and Mexican Professionals
The TN category was created as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which develops a special economic and trade relationship for the United States, Canada and Mexico. The TN beneficiaries must be citizens of Canada and Mexico. A person with a TN visa is allowed to work in the US on a temporary basis up to three years. Permanent residents, including Canadian residents, however are not qualified to apply as a NAFTA professional worker.
The TN professional may bring their derivative beneficiaries (spouse and children below 21). The visa for the dependents of a TN professional is TD visa. The TN professional must not have an immigrant intention.
How do I qualify for this visa? In order to qualify for a TN visa, the applicant must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico who is engaged in a profession on the NAFTA list; the position in the US requires a NAFTA professional; and the Mexican or Canadian applicant is to work in a prearranged full-time or part-time job, for a US employer and has the requisite qualifications for the position.
Temporary, Intermittent and Seasonal Occupations
H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers
The H-2A visa allows agricultural employers in the United States who foresee a shortage of domestic farm workers to hire foreign nationals to work on a temporary or seasonal nature through the temporary agricultural program. H-2A visa holders will primarily work at certain seasons of the year, during crop production and harvest, or for a period less than a year but may be extended for up to three years.
There is no quota and several H2A beneficiaries may be included in the same petition as long as they meet the following conditions:
- They will perform the same services;
- They will work at the same location; and
- They obtain their visa stamp through the same US consulate
Spouses and children of H2A visa holders may enter and stay in the US in H4 status. H4 visa holders may attend school in the US but are allowed to accept employment.
H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers
The H-2B visa allows employers to bring foreign national workers to the United States to temporarily fill nonagricultural positions. The H2B visa is also available for entertainers, sports players and film makers.
The H2B visa is used for the following types of positions: seasonal, intermittent, peak load and one-time occurrence positions.
To qualify for H-2B nonimmigrant classification, U.S. employers must demonstrate the following:
- Service or labor needed is temporary
- Not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work.
- Wages and working conditions of the current U.S. workers will not be affected by the hiring of foreign laborers.
How long can I stay in the US on this visa? H-2B visa holders are allowed to stay in the United States for the period of time authorized on the temporary labor certificate (usually authorized for no longer one (1) year). H-2B visa may be extended for up to three years. It also requires visa holders to depart and remain outside the United States for consecutive three (3) months before seeking readmission as an H-2B nonimmigrant.
Is there a quota to the number of H2B visas approved? The statutory limit or “cap” on the total number of applicants who may be granted an H-2B visa during a fiscal year is 66,000. One half is available during the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 to March 31) and the other half is available in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 to September 30). Once the cap is reached, USCIS may only accept petitions for H-2B workers who are exempt from the H-2B cap.
L-1 Intracompany Transferees
L-1 is a visa designed to help foreign companies establish or expand their business and services to the United States. This visa allows individuals with specialized knowledge of the company’s product, services, techniques, equipment or management as executive or managerial employees to come to the U.S. for the purpose of setting up a new branch similar with the goals and objectives of the main office overseas. Usually, multi-national companies who are frequent users of L-1 visa apply for only one approval from the USCIS made possible by the “L-1 Blanket Petition Program”.
There are two L-1 visa classifications:
- L-1A visa allows intra-companies to send executive transferees to the United States for the purpose of establishing an office in the country. The L-1 visa holder must have been working overseas location for at least one year out of three previous years in an executive or managerial position.
- L-1B visa is granted to professional employees with specialized knowledge about a company’s products, services, techniques, or equipment for the purpose of transferring the specialized skill to new employees and/or establish an office in the United States.
Can I apply for a Green Card while on this visa? L-1 visa holders are allowed to apply for a Green Card because of employment-based immigrant preference category (EB-1C). EB-1C grants 40,000 immigrant visas annually and does not consider L visa a pre-requisite (although L visa provides a stronger case for the immigrant petitioner).
How long can I stay in the US on this visa? Employees entering the U.S. to establish a new office can stay initially for up to one year. L-1A employees can stay for an initial period of up to three years. They can request extensions in increments of two years until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years. L-1B employees can stay initially for three years with extensions in increments of two years until the employee has reached the maximum limit of five years.
Can I apply for a Green Card while on this visa? Yes, L-1 visa holders may apply for permanent residency.
Athletes, Entertainers, Artists and Outstanding Professionals
O-1 Outstanding Professionals, Artists and Entertainers
The O-1 visa is granted to a person who possesses extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The O-1 visa also applies to individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television.
How do I qualify for this visa? The beneficiary of O-1 visa must be nationally or internationally acclaimed or known in the fields mentioned and must only stay in the U.S. temporarily. Persons with extraordinary skills in science, education, business or athletics must be included in the small percentage of people who possess a great level of expertise and have achieved distinction in these fields. In the field of arts, motion picture or television industry, the person must demonstrate an extraordinary achievement by being considered outstanding, notable or leading beyond the ordinary in the fields mentioned.
O-2 Essential Support Personnel
O-2 is a visa given to persons essential for the completion and successful performance of O-1A and O-1B visa holders. The O-2 worker must possess critical skills that cannot be performed by U.S. workers and have experience with the O-1 worker.
P-1 Entertainment Group
P-1 visa is granted to an athlete, team, or entertainment groups that are “internationally recognized” and whose main purposes are to stay in the United States temporarily and perform in a competition, event or performance. This visa includes short vacations, promotional appearances and incidental stop-over. However, P-1 visas are not issued to a national of a country that is known for sponsoring international terrorism unless granted a waiver by the Secretary of State in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, and appropriate US agencies. The two classifications of P-1 visa are:
- P-1A visa is granted to an athlete or team that is “internationally recognized”. This visa also allows non-professional athletes who participate in an internationally recognized level of performance, professional or amateur ice skaters performing for a theatrical production and amateur athletes or coach who perform in a the highest level of amateur performance in their home country to enter the United States.
- P-1B visa is granted to a person who is an essential part of an internationally recognized entertaining group. He or she must sustain and have a relationship with the group for at least a year.
How long can I stay in the US on this visa? The athlete or team could stay in the United States for the duration of the season, itinerary and contract, not exceeding one year.
P-2 Performers in a Reciprocal Exchange Program
The P-2 visa is granted to artists, entertainers or groups who are coming to United States temporarily to perform. Applicants must be under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the U.S and organization in another country and must possess skills comparable to artists in the U.S. and other countries.
How long can I say in the US on this visa? P-2 visa holders can stay in the US for the duration of the event, competition or performance, not exceeding one year. A one year extension can also be granted to complete the event, competition or performance.
P-3 Performers in a Culturally Unique Program
P-3 visa is granted to an artist, entertainer, or group whose sole purpose is to perform, teach or coach a culturally unique program such as traditional ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, and theatrical. The individual usually has to perform on event/s to further the understanding of the said form of art.
R-1 Religious Workers
The Religious Worker (R) visa is for persons seeking to enter the United States to be employed by a non-profit religious as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation.
How do I qualify for this visa? An R-1 qualified foreign national must have been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S. for at least two years preceding the filing of the R-1 petition. The qualifying petition must also prove that it is tax-exempt.
How long can I stay in the US on this visa? The R-1 visa holder is granted status for up to 30 months initially. The extension may be granted for an additional 30 months and the total stay cannot exceed 60 months.
Can I apply for a Green Card while on this visa? R-1 visa holders may be eligible for an employment-based, fourth preference visa.