How to Get a Work Visa for the United States
A common misconception about immigrating to the United States is that anyone with a degree or job skills may apply for a US work visa. Unfortunately, this is not the case. U.S. immigration policy since the 1960s has been focused primarily on family reunification, making work-related visas a second priority. Nevertheless, if you want to know how to work in the United States on a work visa, there are definitive steps you can take to increase your chances.
The permanent labor certification program, also known as PERM, is a means by which an immigrant with a job offer from a U.S. company can come to the country as a permanent resident. The process is long and complex but can result in permanent residence for the worker and their immediate family. The immigrant must have a U.S. employer as a sponsor, and the employer must go through a certification process in which they must advertise the job opening and prove that there are not enough qualified U.S. workers to fill the position. After the labor certification process is complete, the employer will file a Petition for Immigrant Worker with USCIS.
National Interest Waiver
Immigrants who have achieved national or international recognition in their fields, have won prestigious awards or prizes, or who have in other ways demonstrated a high level of achievement, can apply for permission to immigrate to the United States without having a job offer.
Temporary Work Visas
Temporary work visas to the United States are available to workers of all skill and education levels. These include:
The H1B visa is available to workers who have the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor’s degree or higher. The H1B program requires a U.S. sponsor, but does not require that the employer prove that there are no qualified U.S. workers. The employer must be offering a position that requires at least a bachelor’s degree and must be willing to pay the prevailing wage for the offered position. An H1B visa is good for up to six years, during which the worker may apply for a permanent visa through the labor certification process.
H2A and H2B visas
The H2A and H2B visas are available for temporary or seasonal positions. Some examples are:
- Hotel, restaurant, and resort jobs
- Agricultural jobs
- Seasonal retail jobs
Exchange visitor visas, or “J” visas are available to students, scholars, interns, researchers, and others. Many students come to the United States to work temporarily and then travel. Categories of J visas include:
- Au Pairs
- Camp Counselors
- Summer work/travel
A list of all temporary US work visas and their requirements can be found on the U.S. Department of State website.