With the exception of nationals from visa waiver countries1, anyone wishing to enter the United States temporarily is required to obtain some type of nonimmigrant visa, which permits a stay in the United States for a limited period of time and restricted to the reason for which your visa was issued.
Visitors: A “B” visa is available for individuals who wish to visit the United States for tourism, business, or medical treatment. Applicants for such visas are required to make it clear to the U.S. Consulate or Embassy that they do not intend to remain permanently in the United States.
Students: An F1 visa may be obtained for a student who wishes to pursue full-time academic studies in a college, university, seminar, conservatory, private academic high school, other academic institution, or language-training program. An M visa is issued to international students who are coming to the US to pursue full-time course study at an established vocational school or other nonacademic school that has been approved by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To apply for a student visa, an individual must be already accepted to the university / vocational school and be able to provide a letter from the university establishing enrollment.
The “J1” visa is designated for educational and cultural exchange programs and is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. This visa is commonly used by foreign doctors who wish to train in the United States.
Temporary Employment Based: Foreign nationals may apply for several categories of temporary worker visas. These visas are nonimmigrant visas meant for those who seek to work temporarily in the United States. Certain categories of visas, such as H1-B, are limited in number, with strict annual limits. In order to obtain a temporary worker visa, an employer or agent must first file a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If this petition is approved, it is the foreign national's responsibility to obtain a temporary worker visa. Specific types of temporary worker visas include:
E Visa Details
E visas are for those entering the U.S. to engage in trade or investment services or activities. Specifically, E-1 (Treaty Trader) visas are for people who own or work for companies that do a substantial amount of trade with the United States, and who will be working for that company in the United States for an extended period of time. E-1 visa applicants must establish to the satisfaction of the consular officer that their company carries on well-established and significant trade in goods and/or services between the treaty country and the United States.
E-2 (Treaty Investor) visa are for people who personally invest a substantial amount of their own money in ventures within the United States. These visas can only be issued if the U.S. has a treaty with the alien's country. 2
H-1B Visa Details
“H-1B” visas are reserved for “specialty occupations” meaning professional positions which require a Bachelor’s degree at the entry level. Additionally, the employer must pay prevailing wage in the area of employment as determined by the US Department of Labor. Currently, 85,000 H1Bs are issued every year (with 20,000 of those reserved for Masters or above holders from U.S. graduate schools), usually in three year increments, with a maximum duration of six years (which can be extended one year at a time past the 6 year limit if one has a labor certification or I-140 petition pending for 1 year). There are very special provisions for applicants from Chile and Singapore including elimination of the requirement that the employer file a petition.
Spouses and children of H1B visa holders may enter and remain in the US in H4 status. H4 visa holders may attend school in the US but cannot accept employment.
“H-2A and B” visas are available for temporary workers performing agricultural labor or performing services of a temporary or seasonal nature.
“H-3” is available for certain kinds of trainees.
I Visa Details
Members of foreign media who report on news events and who need to travel to the United States to gather information for the media are eligible for an I-visa. This includes print and television reporters, film crews, video tape editors, employees of independent production companies, free-lance journalists working under contract, and persons in similar occupations. Journalists and media workers can also obtain an I-visa if they are being assigned to reside in the U.S. as representatives of a foreign press, radio, film, or other information medium which as a home office in a foreign country and the applicant’s government allows for reciprocal visas to American information media.
L1 Visa Details
Companies operating both in the U.S. and abroad can transfer certain classes of employees – executives, managers or employees with specialized knowledge -- from foreign operations to their U.S. operations for up to seven years. The employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of the U.S. company outside of the United States for at least one year out of the last three years. The great thing about “L” executives and managers is that they can bypass the labor certification process if they wish to pursue permanent residency in the United States after being admitted on the “L”.
O1 Visa Details
The O1 visa is designated for individuals of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. The O1 visa is very helpful for artists, athletes, entertainers, high-end chefs, and business people lacking professional degrees. There is no prevailing wage requirement, the O1 visa may be extended indefinitely and there is no numerical limit to the number of O1 visas issued.
P1 Visa Details
The P1 visa is designated for entertainers, circus artists, and athletes who are coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific competition or event. An athlete who wishes to remain in the US for a longer period of time should apply for an O1 visa.
A lawful permanent resident is a foreign national who has been granted the privilege of permanently living and working in the United States. In general, in order to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, a foreign citizen must be sponsored by a U.S. citizen relative(s) or by a prospective employer, or have been granted asylum.
If you have a relative who is a US Citizen and they can legally prove you share one of the following relationships, you may be eligible for lawful permanent residency:
- Husband or wife;
- Child over the age of 21;
- Brother or sister
People who want to become immigrants based on family sponsorship are divided into "preferences" (categories), and if their immigrant visa petition is approved, they must wait for an immigrant visa to become available according to the preference system. Because the number of immigrant visas available each year is limited, you may not get an immigrant visa immediately after your immigrant visa petition is approved. In some cases, it could take several years An exception exists for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which includes parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21. An immigrant visa will be immediately available for these immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
If you are a U.S. citizen, you can sponsor the following relatives for permanent residence: mother, father, sister, brother, child of any age regardless of marital status.
Annually, a minimum of 140,000 immigrant visas are issued to individuals who are sponsored by U.S. employers. All intending immigrants who plan to base their immigrant visa application on employment in the United States must first obtain an approved labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. Approval requires demonstrating that there are no qualified U.S. workers available and willing to perform the work at wages that meet or exceed the prevailing wage paid for the occupation in the area of intended employment as determined by DOL. If the necessary labor certification is approved, the employer must then file a Form I-140, Petition for Prospective Immigrant Employee, with USCIS. Once approved, the beneficiary alien can seek lawful permanent resident status. Because the number of immigrant visa numbers that are available each year is limited, there is usually a wait of several years before the visa becomes available.
Certain extraordinary ability individuals, outstanding professors and researchers, multinational executives and managers can immigrate to the United States without employment sponsorship and without going through the labor certification process. The requirements in each of these categories are specific and too long for this website. If you think you might qualify, contact us for a detailed consultation.
Investment / Employment-Creation Based Immigration
Non-Americans who wish to immigrate to the United States may take advantage of a program that grants U.S. residency to individuals and their immediate family if they invest a minimum of $500,000 to $1 million in a commercial enterprise and creates a minimum of 10 direct U.S. jobs in the process. The investor and his/her immediate family (spouse and all children under age 21) are then issued a “conditional green card” to immigrate to the United States. After two years, the conditional status is removed upon a showing that the investment created at least ten full-time permanent jobs for U.S. workers. For more information, go to The EB-5 Investor Program.. What’s exciting about this program is DHS’s decision to allow pooled investments in Certified Regional Centers which allows the investor to live anywhere in the U.S. and not have day-to-day responsibility for the business. See Hot Topics.
If you are a U.S. Permanent Resident and have been for five (5) years (3 years if you are married to a U.S. citizen) and are ready to apply for U.S. Citizenship, we can assist you in the application process. In order to be successful, you must satisfy the following requirements:
- 30 months physical presence in the United States (18 months of you are married to a US citizen);
- 3 months physical presence in the state or district where you are going to apply for naturalization;
- Good moral character;
- Pass an English and Civics exam;
- Pledge allegiance to the U.S. Constitution;
Political asylum is granted by the U.S. government to people who can prove that they are afraid to return to their home country because they have a "well-founded fear of persecution" on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. People may also be granted political asylum if they left their home country because they were persecuted in the past. Individuals granted political asylum may apply for permanent residency in the United States.
1 Countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program include: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom. Individuals entering on visa waiver are not eligible to change their status or extend their stay in the U.S. They are given 90 days stay on any one visit.
2 Countries which have signed treaties with the U.S. conferring either E-1 ((Treaty Trader) or E-2 (Treaty Investor) status are: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia/Herzegovina, Canada, China (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Honduras, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, South Korea, Latvia, Liberia, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mexico, , Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Serbia-Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Countries with treaties with the U.S. conferring only E-1 (Treaty Trader) Visas include: Bolivia, Brunei, Denmark, Greece, Israel, and Latvia. Countries with treaties with the U.S. conferring only E-2 (Treaty Investor) Visas include: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Congo, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Grenada, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Panama, Poland, Romania, Senegal, Slovak Republic, Sri Lanka, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisia, and Ukraine.