A. Business Visa (B-1). Persons coming to the U.S. for specific business reasons. Permissible business activities are limited and include, for example: exploring potential investments, negotiating contracts, consulting with business associates, and attending conferences. This visa does not grant authorization to work for a U.S. employer.
B. Specialty Workers (H-1B). Workers coming to the United States to work for a temporary but specific period of time in a “specialty occupation” for which a degree or its equivalent is required. Examples of specialty occupations include architects, engineers, computer analysts, and accountants. This visa is available for up to six years. Only 65,000 visas are available annually.
C. Intracompany Transferees (L-1). Workers who have been employed in an executive, management, or specialized knowledge position for one out of the past three years with an overseas entity and who are coming to work at a U.S. parent, affiliate, subsidiary, or branch of the overseas company. The individual must fill a managerial, executive, or “specialized knowledge” position. This visa is available for up to seven years for managers and executives and five years for specialized knowledge positions and may serve as a stepping stone to permanent residence. A Blanket Program is available for employers with multiple workers who qualify for this visa.
D. Treaty Traders and Investors (E-1 and E-2). These visas are available only to individuals from countries that have entered a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation or a Bilateral Investment Treaty with the U.S. The individual must oversee or work for a company involved in foreign trade or derived of a foreign investment. Visas are also available for key employees whose skills are essential to the operation of the company in the U.S.
1. Treaty Traders: For employees or owners of qualifying U.S. companies that engage in substantial trade of goods or services with the foreign country. At least 50% of the company’s trade must be between the U.S. and the treaty country.
2. Treaty Investors: For investors or employees of qualifying U.S. companies. The foreign investor must hold at least 51% interest in the U.S. company and must control and direct the business investment. The investment must be an active one. It also cannot serve as the investor’s primary source of income.
E. Extraordinary Workers (O-1 Visa). For workers of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The workers must have “sustained national or international acclaim” in their field and be coming to the United States to continue such work. This is a narrow category, but might cover workers who do not qualify for the H-1 B visa due to lack of a degree. This category also covers artists such as musicians, songwriters, and dancers. A similar, but less stringent category (P-1) is available for groups and other performers under certain circumstances.
F. Treaty Traders (TN). Special status with streamlined procedures for Mexican or Canadian citizens available pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement. It is reserved primarily for members of the professions who hold at least a Bachelor’s Degree. However, Management Consultants with five years’ experience (in lieu of a formal degree), Scientific Technicians (with theoretical knowledge and skills), and Computer Analysts with a post-secondary diploma or certificate and three years’ experience are also eligible. TN status is valid for one year with extensions permitted.
G. Religious Workers (R-1). For religious ministers, religious professionals, and other religious workers coming to work for a bona-fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S. The religious worker must have been a member of the denomination for at least two years prior to coming to work in the U.S.