Source: US Department of State

 

Important Notices: Nonimmigrant Rights, Protections and Resources: Learn about the Nonimmigrant Rights, Protections and Resources informational pamphlet, now available!

Overview and Types of Visas

There are various categories (called classifications) of nonimmigrant visas for a person who wishes to work temporarily in the United States, based on U.S immigration laws, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Act. If you want to work in the U.S. temporarily, under immigration law, you need a specific visa based on the purpose of your travel and type of work you will be doing. To learn more, please see United States Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) Working in the U.S. webpage.

Review Temporary Workers on the USCIS website for more detailed information about each category, petition procedures and eligibility for each type of temporary worker below. See Employer Information on the USCIS website for information about the numerical limit CAP count, e-Verify, and more. There are annual numerical limits on some visa types, which are shown in parentheses below.

  • H-1B Persons in Specialty Occupation which requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge requiring completion of a specific course of higher education. (65,000). This category also includes fashion models and Government-to-Government research and development, or co-production projects administered by the Department of Defense (100);
  • H-2A Seasonal Agricultural Workers – Review USCIS H-2A program requirements and regulations, which apply to all petitions filed for this visa category.NOTE: USCIS may approve a petition for this visa category on your behalf if you are a citizen or national of a designated country. If you are a citizen or national from a non-designated country, USCIS may approve a petition on your behalf if it is determined to be in the United States’ interest. Learn more from USCIS;
  • H-2B Temporary or Seasonal Nonagricultural Workers – Review USCIS H-2B program requirements and regulations, which apply to all petitions filed for this visa category. NOTE: USCIS may approve a petition for this visa category on your behalf if you are a citizen or national of a designated country. If you are a citizen or national from a non-designated country, USCIS may approve a petition on your behalf if it is determined to be in the United States’ interest. Learn more fromUSCIS. (66,000);
  • H-3 Trainees (other than medical or academic) This visa type also applies to practical training in the education of handicapped children (50);
  • L Intracompany Transferees who, within the three preceding years, have been employed abroad continuously for one year, and who will be employed by a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of that same employer in the U.S. in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity;
  • O-1 Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television field;
  • O-2 Persons Accompanying an O-1 to assist in an artistic or athletic performance for a specific event or performance;
  • P-1 Individual or Team Athletes, or Members of an Entertainment group that are internationally recognized (25,000);
  • P-2 Artists or Entertainers who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program;
  • P-3 Artists or Entertainers who perform under a program that is culturally unique; and
  • Q-1 Participants in an International Cultural Exchange Program for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the alien's home country.

Labor Certifications

In order to be considered for nonimmigrant visa under the above classifications some temporary worker categories require an applicant's prospective employer to obtain a labor certification or other approval from the Department of Labor for the prospective employee (visa applicant). Once that is received, if required, the prospective employer or agent can file the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS.

Petitions

Before applying for a temporary worker visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad applicants must obtain an approved Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker from USCIS. This form must be submitted by your prospective employer at USCIS’sTemporary Workers webpage no earlier than 6 months prior to the proposed employment start date. Employers should file the petition as soon as possible within the 6 month period to allow adequate time for processing. Should you need petition processing faster, see Premium Processing Service on USCIS website. Once approved, the employer will be sent Form I-797, Notice of Action.

Important Note: The Form I-797 is no longer needed for your interview. However, to verify petition approval we will need your I-129 petition receipt number so please make sure to have this available.

PIMS Processing Update

If there’s a chance a beneficiary of a petition needs to obtain a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate after the petitioner requests a change of status, extension of status, or amendment to the original petition it is advisable that the petitioner submit 2 copies of the updated petition with the original signatures on all forms to USCIS. When submitting the 2 copies of the updated petition it is encouraged to identify one of them with a brightly colored cover sheet with the notation “Please send this copy to the Kentucky Consular Center (KCC) upon approval”.  Once approved, USCIS will then forward the marked copy of the updated petition to KCC for scanning and entry into the PIMS database where the U.S. Embassy or Consulate will be able to access the updated petition. 

Applying for a Visa

Temporary Worker applicants must meet specific requirements to qualify for a Temporary Work (H, L, O, P, or Q) visa under immigration law. The consular officer will determine whether you qualify for the visa. Applicants for temporary work visas should generally apply at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. Visa applications are now subject to a greater degree of review than in the past so it is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date.

As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. To make an appointment for interview you will need to provide the receipt number that is printed on the approved Form I-129 petition. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available on our website at Visa Wait Times, and on most embassy websites. Learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy specific instructions, and much more by visiting the U.S. Embassy or Consulate website where you will apply.

During the visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will be quickly taken. Some visa applications require furtheradministrative processing, which takes additional time after the visa applicant's interview by a Consular Officer.

Required Documentation

Each applicant for a visitor visa must submit these forms and documentation as explained below.

  • Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160. Visit ourDS-160 webpage to learn more about the DS-160 online process.
  • A passport valid for travel to the U.S. with a validity date of at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the U.S. (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application.
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in Photograph Requirements.
  • Visa applicants included in L blanket petitions must provide Form I-129S, Nonimmigrant Petition Based on Blanket L Petition.

What are the Required Visa Fees?

  • Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee: For current fees for Department of State government services select Fees. You will need to provide a receipt showing the visa application processing fee has been paid, when you come for your visa interview.
  • Visa issuance fee: Additionally, if the visa is issued, there will be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, if applicable. Please consult the Visa Reciprocity Tables to find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the fee amount is.
  • Other Fees for Certain L Visa Applicants: Visa applicants included in L blanket petitions must also pay a fraud prevention and detection fee and may need to pay the Border Security Act Fee. Select Fees for more information under Other Fees. 

Legal Rights and Protections for Employment (H1-B, H2-A and H2-B) or Education-based Nonimmigrants

Recent changes to U.S. law relate to the legal rights of employment-based nonimmigrants under Federal immigration, labor, and employment laws, and the information to be provided about protections and available resources. As a temporary visitor to the U.S., it is important that you are aware of your rights, as well as protections and resources available when you come to work or study here. Before your interview, review the Nonimmigrant Rights, Protections and Resources pamphlet and learn about additional information on our webpage.

Spouses and Children

With the exception of "Q-1 Cultural Exchange Visitors", the spouse and unmarried, minor children of an applicant under for any of the above types of visas may also apply for the same type of visa in order to accompany or join the principal applicant. The principal applicant must be able to show that he or she will be able to support his or her family in the U.S. A person who has received a visa as the spouse or child of a temporary worker may not accept employment in the U.S. with the exception of spouses of L-1 visa holders - L-2 spouses who may engage in employment with an "employment authorized" endorsement or appropriate work permit.

Additional Information

  • With the exception of the H-1B, L-1, and O categories, visa applicants also need to show proof of binding ties to a residence outside the United States which they have no intention of abandoning.
  • No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. The approval of a petition does not guarantee visa issuance, as the applicant will need to be eligible for the visa under provisions of U.S. immigration laws.
  • Final travel plans or the purchase of non-refundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.

Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the U.S.

Misrepresentation of a Material Facts, or Fraud

Attempting to obtain a visa by the willful misrepresentation of a material fact, or fraud, may result in the permanent refusal of a visa or denial of entry into the United States.Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas, provides important information about ineligibilities.

Visa Ineligibilities and Waivers

The Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156 or Online Form DS-160, indicates some classes of persons who are ineligible under U.S. law to receive visas. In some instances an applicant who is ineligible, but who is otherwise properly classifiable for a certain type of visa, may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and be issued a visa if the waiver is approved. Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas provides important information about ineligibilities, by reviewing sections of the law taken from the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Visa Denials

If the consular officer should find it necessary to deny the issuance of a visa, applicants may apply again if there is new evidence to overcome the basis for the refusal. For additional information, select Denials. In the absence of new evidence, consular officers are not obligated to re-examine such cases.

Entering the U.S. - Port of Entry

A visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the United States. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the United States, it is very important to keep in your passport. In advance of travel, prospective travelers should review important information about Admissions/Entry requirements, as well as information related to restrictions about bringing foodagricultural products or otherrestricted/prohibited goods explained on the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection website. Upon arrival (at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program.

Staying Beyond Your Authorized Stay in the U.S. and Being Out of Status

  • It is important you depart the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be in the U.S. on any given trip, based on the specified end date on your Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94. Failure to depart the U.S. will cause you to be out-of-status. Staying beyond the period of time authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and being in the United States is a violation of U.S. immigration laws, and may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future for return travel to the U.S. Select Classes of Aliens Ineligible to Receive Visas to learn more.
  • Staying unlawfully in the United States beyond the date Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authorized, even by one day, results in your visa being automatically voided, in accordance with INA 222(g). Under this provision of immigration law, if you overstay on your nonimmigrant authorized stay in the U.S., your visa will be automatically voided. In this situation, you are required to reapply for a new nonimmigrant visa, generally in your country of nationality.

How Do I Extend My Stay?

Visitors who wish to stay beyond the date indicated on their Form I-94 are required to have approval by USCIS. See Extend Your Stay on the USCIS website.

How Do I Change My Status?

Some nonimmigrant visa holders, while present in the U.S., are able to file a request which must be approved by USCIS to change to another nonimmigrant category. SeeChange My Nonimmigrant Status on the USCIS website.

Important Note: Filing a request with USCIS for approval of change of status before your authorized stay expires, while you remain in the U.S., does not by itself require the visa holder to apply for a new visa. However, if you cannot remain in the U.S. while USCIS processes your change of status request, you will need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.

Further Inquiries

  • Questions about filing a petition, qualifications for various classifications, or conditions and limitations on employment should be made by the prospective employer or agent in the U.S. to the nearest USCIS office.
  • Questions about filing a visa application at a consular section abroad should be addressed to the appropriate consular office abroad. Inquiries about visa cases in progress overseas should contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulatehandling your case.

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