Overview of Non-immigrant Work Visas
It is possible to obtain remain in the United States for an extended period of time for those who will either work in a particular category or setup an investment/trade business. This page will provide a basic overview of these options and links to a more detailed overview of these various options. The categories include E1 treaty traders, E2 treaty investors, H1B specialty occupation workers, L1A intra-company managers/executives, L1B intra-company specialized skill workers, O1 aliens of extraordinary ability, P1 athletes and entertainers, R1 religious workers and TN professional Canadian and Mexican workers/
Click on any of the topics on the right to read a more detailed overview and to find additional articles, resources, case studies and more.
Work Visa Categories List:
- E1 – Treaty Traders: In order to obtain an E1 visa as a treaty trader, the foreign national must be seeking to carry on substantial trade between the US and the foreign national’s country of nationality. Only certain countries in the world have such a treaty, and there are specific requirements to establish “substantial trade.” Key employees of the company may also obtain an E1 visa along with the individual who has established the business.
- E2 – Treaty Investor: In order to obtain an E2 visa to remain in the US as an investor, the E2 investor must ensure that the investment is both “substantial” and “non-marginal.” Even investments of under $50,000 can conceivably be acceptable, but the lower the dollar amount the higher percentage the investor must own in order for the investment to be considered “substantial.” The issue of marginality is whether the business will create more than just employment for the investor. If that is the case, the petition will be considered “marginal.” Key employees of the company may also obtain an E1 visa along with the individual who has established the business.
- H1B – Specialty Occupation Workers: The essential factors to qualify for an H1B work visa, which is the most popular work visa, is that the employer must be able to offer a position that requires a bachelors degree in a specific field or specific set of fields (thus making the position a specialty occupation) and the worker must likewise possess the proper qualifications. There is an annual cap for H1B visas, with certain exemptions depending on the nature of the employment.
- L1A – Intra-company Manager or Executive Transferee: To qualify for the L1A category, the employer must be a multinational company and the employee must have worked as an executive or manager for at least one of the past three years, and must have an offer to continue in such a capacity for the US branch of the company. There are strict guidelines as to what nature of work qualifies as “executive” or “managerial.”
- L1B – Intra-company Specialized Knowledge Transferee: To qualify for the L1B category, the employer must be a multinational company and the employee must have worked as an specialized knowledge worker for at least one of the past three years, and must have an offer to continue in such a capacity for the US branch of the company. There are strict guidelines as to what nature of work qualifies as “specialized knowledge,” however it essentially means that the worker learned something specifically proprietary to the company which is such that the US employer would not be able to find a worker outside of the company to be able to perform the job without significant training to gain such knowledge.
- O1 – Individuals with Extraordinary Ability: To qualify, whether you are an athlete, entertainer, engineer, architect, graphic designer, etc., you need to prove that you are among the very top of your field of endeavor. USCIS has outlined eight criteria, and applicants must meet at least three out of eight of these criteria. An O1 petition requires an employer and written advisory opinion (consultation) from a peer group of designated person with expertise in the worker’s area of expertise.
- P1 – Athletes and Entertainers : A P-1 visa is for an athletes or entertainers who will be performing in either a competition or as a member of a foreign-based entertainment group recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a substantial period of time.
- R1 – Religious Worker: This category is for those who will work at a qualifying non-profit 501(c)(3) religious organization where they will work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation. The worker must have had at least two years of membership within the religious denomination preceding the filing of the petition.
- TN – Canadian or Mexican Worker: TN is an acronym meaning “Trade NAFTA.” The TN visa permits Canadian and Mexican citizens the opportunity to work in the US within specific occupations for a temporary period, but may be renewed indefinitely. The advantage of TN of an H1B visa is that TN status may be obtained any time of the year. There is, however, a specific list of qualifying occupations listed in NAFTA Chapter 16, Annex 103, Appendix 1602.d.1. Occupations on this list include lawyers, research physicians, architects, dentists, graphic designers, college teachers, systems analysts, engineers, accountants, management consultants, social workers, and chemists. There are over 60 occupations listed.