Individuals seeking to enter the U.S. to engage in business activities for a brief period (no more than six months for initial admission with the possibility of extending up to one year) may obtain a B-1 visa. For visa issuance, applicants typically need to present a letter from the foreign or U.S. company explaining the purpose and duration of their stay in the United States. This is not a work authorized status. B-1 visitors can only engage in certain business activities in the U.S., such as meetings, contract negotiations, or professional conferences, and they cannot receive a salary or income from a U.S.-based entity for those activities. As a quicker alternative for some visitors, the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) permits individuals from certain countries to enter the U.S. for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. The list of Visa Waiver Program countries and online ESTA application is available here.
This visa classification is used to fill specialty occupations – i.e., positions requiring a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in work experience. The maximum length of stay in the U.S. is six years, although the stay of an H-1B worker may be extended beyond the sixth year once they reach a certain point in the green card process. Notably, only a certain number of new H-1B visas may be granted each year. Due to demand consistently exceeding the statutory cap on new H-1B visas, applicants who have never held H-1B status must go through the annual lottery (unless sponsored by a cap-exempt employer, such as a qualifying institution of higher education or nonprofit research organization). Once counted against the H-1B cap (i.e., selected in the lottery and granted H-1B status), an employee may extend, amend, and transfer their H-1B at any time. Dependents of H-1B workers are eligible for H-4 status for the same duration as the employee and H-4 spouses are eligible to apply for work authorization if the H-1B worker is a beneficiary of an approved I-140. We provide further information on the numerical H-1B caps and entry into the annual lottery here.
This visa classification is closely aligned to the H-1B category in terms of qualifying positions and other requirements but is only available to citizens of Australia. Another distinction from the H-1B visa is that E-3 applicants may apply directly at a U.S. consulate abroad. E-3 status is granted in two-year increments with unlimited extensions available so long as they maintain ties to their home country consistent with temporary, nonimmigrant intent. Dependents of E-3 workers are eligible for E-3D status for the same duration as the employee and E-3D spouses are automatically authorized to work incident to their status if they hold a valid I-94 confirming such status.
This visa classification is closely aligned to the H-1B category in terms of qualifying positions and other requirements but is only available to citizens of Singapore and Chile. Another distinction from the H-1B visa is that H-1B1 applicants may apply directly at a U.S. consulate abroad. H-1B1 status is granted in 18-month increments with unlimited extensions available so long as they maintain ties to their home country consistent with temporary, nonimmigrant intent. Dependents of H-1B1 workers are eligible H-4 status for the same duration of the employee but are not eligible for work authorization.
This visa classification is available to Canadian or Mexican citizens who qualify for a professional occupation listed in Chapter 16, Appendix 2 of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)(formerly NAFTA). TN status is usually granted in three-year increments with unlimited extensions allowed, so long as they maintain ties to their home country consistent with temporary, nonimmigrant intent. Canadian citizens may apply for TN status directly at the Port of Entry into the United States and Mexican citizens may apply directly at a U.S. consulate abroad (typically granted a one-year TN visa). Dependents of TN workers are eligible TD status for the same duration as the employee but are not eligible for work authorization.
This visa is for executives or managers (L-1A) and employees with “specialized knowledge” (L-1B) who have worked for a parent, subsidiary, or affiliate of a U.S. company for at least one year in the three years prior to applying for L-1 status. The maximum stay in the U.S. is five years for L-1B and seven years for L-1A status. Some companies may hold a blanket approval confirming the qualifying corporate relationship to foreign employers, which allows employees to apply for L-1 status directly at a U.S. consulate outside of the United States. Otherwise, the U.S. employer must file an L-1 petition with USCIS on behalf of the employee. Dependents of L-1 employees are eligible for L-2 status for the same duration as the employee and L-2 spouses are automatically authorized to work incident to their status if they hold a valid I-94 confirming such status.
This classification is for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics (O-1A) or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry (O-1B) with national or international recognition for their achievements. More specifically, O-1 status is reserved for a “small percentage of individuals who have risen to the very top of their field” (O-1A) or “renowned, leading, or well-known individuals with a degree of skill and recognition substantially above what is ordinarily encountered in the field of arts” (O-1B). O-1 status is typically granted for an initial period of three years with unlimited extensions in one-year increments available after that. Dependents of O-1 employees are eligible for O-3 status for the same duration of the employee but are not eligible for work authorization. More information on the criteria and evidence required to prove O-1 eligibility is available here.
J-1 programs are available in a variety of different categories. Common employment-based programs used by our clients include classification as a J-1 Intern (12-months) or J-1 Trainee (18-months). J-1 Interns must be currently enrolled at a foreign degree- or certificate-granting post-secondary academic institution outside the United States or have graduated from such institution no more than 12 months prior to the start of their J-1 internship. J-1 Trainees must have a degree or professional certificate from a foreign post-secondary academic institution and at least one year of related work experience in their occupational field outside the United States or at least five years of relevant experience abroad. J-1 status cannot be extended beyond the maximum amount of time allowed for the particular program type. Some foreign nationals are subject to a two-year return residency requirement which requires them to return to their last country of residence after the completion of their J-1 program (unless eligible for a waiver). Dependents of J-1 participants are eligible for J-2 status for the same duration as the J-1 and are eligible to apply for work authorization, so long as their income will not be used to support the J-1 participant. More information on various J-1 exchange programs and the requirements is available here.
F-1 visas are for individuals to enter the U.S. as a full -time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. They must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate and your school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students. Most students are eligible for up to one year of Optional Practical Training (OPT), allowing them to accept employment following the completion of their degree program. An additional 24 months is available to students in a qualifying STEM field. Employers must be an e-Verify participant in order to employ foreign nationals working pursuant to STEP OPT. Prior to graduation, F-1 students may be eligible for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or pre-completion OPT, but the use of such allowances may impact their eligibility for post-completion OPT. Dependents of F-1s are eligible for F-2 status but are not eligible for work authorization.
Nationals of a qualifying treaty country may be eligible to enter the U.S. to operate entities in the U.S. that facilitate international trade (E-1) or to develop and direct an investment in a U.S. enterprise that will generate opportunities for U.S. workers (E-2). Applicants in this category are eligible for visas valid for up to five years and are admitted for a two-year period each time they enter the United States. Dependents of E-1 and E-2 workers are eligible for E-1S/E-1Y or E-2S/E-2Y status for the same duration as the employee and spouses are automatically authorized to work incident to their status if they hold a valid I-94 confirming such status. Visit these links for more information on the qualifications and requirements for classification as an E-1 Treaty Trader or E-2 Treaty Investor.