Understanding temporary employment-based visas

People wishing to work temporarily in the United States should know what their options are.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people apply to come to Colorado or elsewhere using an employment-based visa. These temporary, nonimmigrant visas grant permission to enter and stay in the country for a set period of time. There are several different types of such visas, and applying for the correct one based on eligibility is imperative to securing one.

How many are granted every year?

The U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs reports that immigration law makes about 140,000 of these visas available every year. There are limits on how many specific types of visas may be granted. For example, only 65,000 H-1B visas may be given every year, but there are 20,000 additional ones available to people who hold a master's degree or higher from a U.S. institution. They are allotted based on when applications are submitted, so time is often of the essence.

What visas are available?

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services makes several options available, such as class E visas, which apply to people associated with treaties and investments. The following employment-based visas are also available:

  • H-1B or H-1B1: Reserved for people who work in specialty occupations, such as research development, some of whom hold a post-secondary degree.
  • H-2A and H-2B: Applicants work in temporary or seasonal agriculture or work that is not agriculture, respectively.
  • H-3: This visa is for people who need training or special education that is not available in their home country.
  • L: Someone transferring to a branch or subsidiary of a company with which they have worked for at least one year.
  • O: Useful for someone who has an extraordinary talent in certain fields.
  • P-1, P-2 and P-3: These are for athletes who are going to compete or artists and entertainers who are going to perform under certain circumstances.

There is a Q-1 visa available for people who are going to participate in an exchange program. People associated with foreign press are classified as I nonimmigrant workers, and people who are religious workers are classified as R-1.

How is a work visa obtained?

In most cases, the person's prospective employer must first file a petition for a nonimmigrant worker with the USCIS. Upon approval, the person may then apply for a visa, which can be done online. There typically will be an interview prior to approval, unless the applicant is 13 or younger or 80 or older.

Can spouses or children come?

It is possible, in some cases, for children and spouses of a nonimmigrant worker to come to the United States. In order to do so, they will have to apply for a visa with the U.S. consulate.

What if I want to stay permanently?

There are many instances of people who come to the U.S. with the intention of being here temporarily but later decide to remain here on a permanent basis. This can be accomplished through changing the person's status with the USCIS.

Due to the number of possible visas, the limitations on them and the specific requirements involved, people interested in this topic should speak with an immigration attorney in Colorado.