The employment provisions of the U.S. immigration law provide several business related visa alternatives. Depending on the employer, job opening, and qualifications of the employee, a foreign national may obtain either permanent residence or a temporary visa. Each category is briefly described below. However, this summary is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive. A variety of other types of visas are also available. For a more complete explanation, an immigration attorney should be consulted.
A. Priority Workers. This category allots 40,000 visas annually. A Labor Certification is not required for Priority Workers. There are three groups of Priority Workers:
- Workers of Extraordinary Ability. Highly accomplished workers in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics. This category is reserved for those individuals who have risen to the top of their profession and who are coming to the United States to work in their field.
- Outstanding Professors and Researchers. Internationally recognized professors and researchers who are coming to the U.S. to accept a tenured or tenure-track position with a university or to conduct research in the private sector for a qualified employer.
- Multinational Executives and Managers. Foreign nationals who are coming to work in an executive or managerial position in the U.S. and who have been employed with the same company, subsidiary, or affiliate abroad for at least one year out of the past three.
B. Advanced Degree Workers. This category allocates 40,000 visas annually. A Labor Certification is required unless it can be shown that a worker will serve our “national interest”. There are two groups of these workers:
- Advanced Degree: Workers with at least a Master’s Degree who are coming to the U.S. to work in their field.
- Exceptional Ability: Workers who can demonstrate exceptional ability (in lieu of an advanced degree) in business, science, or the arts. This category is less demanding than the Extraordinary Worker described above.
C. Skilled and Unskilled Workers. This category allocates 40,000 visas annually. A Labor Certification is always required. There are three groups of these workers:
- Skilled Workers: Workers with at least two years of training or experience.
- Professionals: Workers with at least a Bachelor’s Degree.
- Unskilled Workers. Workers with less than two years of training or experience. The unskilled workers category has a very long wait list for a visa.
D. Investors. Investors in a new commercial enterprise, with the minimum investment set at $1 million (may be lower for rural or high unemployment areas). Each million dollar investment must provide at least ten new jobs, unless the business locality has been designated as a Regional Service Center, which waives the job requirement.
E. Diversity Immigrants. Persons from countries under-represented in the U.S. Applicants must have at least a high school diploma (or foreign equivalent) or two years’ experience in a skilled occupation. This annual program allocates visas on a lottery-type basis.
F. Religious Workers. Workers with at least two years’ experience in a religious occupation and two years’ membership in a particular denomination who come to the U.S. to work in that religious occupation.
Temporary Business-Related Visas
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.
- 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.
- 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.