If you want to work in the United States temporarily as a nonimmigrant, under U.S. immigration law, you need a specific visa based on the type of work you will be doing. Most temporary worker categories require that your prospective employer or agent file a petition, which must be approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States before you can apply for a work visa.
H Visa (Work Visa)
- H-1B (specialty occupation)
L Visa (Company Transferees Visa)
An H-1B visa is required if you are coming to the United States to perform services in a pre-arranged professional job. To qualify, you must hold a bachelor's or higher degree (or an equivalent degree) in the specific specialty for which you seek employment. USCIS will determine whether your employment constitutes a specialty occupation and whether you are qualified to perform the services. Your employer is required file a labor condition application with the Department of Labor concerning the terms and conditions of its contract of employment with you.
- H-2B visa (skilled and unskilled workers)
This visa is required if you are coming to the United States to perform a job which is temporary or seasonal in nature and for which there is a shortage of U.S. workers. Your employer is required to obtain a Department of Labor certification confirming that there are no qualified U.S. workers eligible for the type of employment on which your petition is based.
- H-4 (dependents)
If you are the principal holder of a valid H visa, your spouse or unmarried children (under age 21) may receive an H-4 visa to accompany you to the United States. However, your spouse/children are not permitted to work while in the United States.
- L-1 (intra-company transferees)
O Visa (People with Extraordinary Ability Visa)
An L-1 visa is required if you are the employee of an international company which is temporarily transferring you to a parent branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the same company in the United States. The international company may be either a U.S. or foreign organization. To qualify for an L-1 visa, you must be at the managerial or executive level, or have specialized knowledge and be destined to a position within the U.S. company at either of these levels, although not necessarily in the same position as held previously. In addition, you must have been employed outside the United States with the international company continuously for one year within the three years preceding your application for admission into the United States. You may only apply for an L-1 visa after your U.S. company or affiliate has received an approved petition from USCIS, either on a "blanket" or individual basis.
- L-2 (dependents)
If you are the principal holder of a valid L visa, your spouse or unmarried children (under age 21) may receive this derivative visa. Due to a recent change in the law, your spouse may seek employment authorization. Your spouse must enter the United States on his/her own L-2 visa and then submit a completed Form I-765 (obtainable from USCIS), along with an application fee. Your children are not authorized to work in the United States
- O-1A (sciences, education, business, or athletics)
P Visa (Athlete, Entertainer, Artist Visa)
Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics (not including the arts, motion pictures or television industry)
- O-1B (motion picture or television industry)
Individuals with an extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in motion picture or television industry
- O-2 (accompanying assistant)
Individuals who will accompany an O-1, artist or athlete, to assist in a specific event or performance. For an O-1A, the O-2’s assistance must be an “integral part” of the O-1A’s activity. For an O-1B, the O-2’s assistance must be “essential” to the completion of the O-1B’s production. The O-2 worker has critical skills and experience with the O-1 that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and which are essential to the successful performance of the O-1
- O-3 (dependents)
The O-3 dependent visa is a nonimmigrant visa which allows the spouse and unmarried children below 21 years of O-1 and O-2 visa holders to enter into the U.S. and reside with the family.
- P-1A (internationally recognized athlete)
J Visa (Exchange Visitor Visa)
The P-1 classification applies to you if you are coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.
- P-1B (member of an internationally recognized entertainment group)
The P-1B classification applies to you if you are coming to the United States temporarily to perform as a member of an entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time.
- P-2 (individual performer or part of a group entering to perform under a reciprocal exchange program)
The P-2 classification applies to you if you are coming temporarily to perform as an artist or entertainer, individually or as part of a group, who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the United States and an organization in another country.
- P-3 (artist or entertainer coming to be part of a culturally unique program)
The P-3 classification applies to you if you are coming temporarily to perform, teach or coach as artists or entertainers, individually or as part of a group, under a program that is culturally unique.
The exchange visitor program's J visa is designed to promote the interchange of persons, knowledge, and skills in the fields of education, arts, and sciences. Participants include students at all academic levels; trainees obtaining on-the-job training with firms, institutions, and agencies; teachers of primary, secondary, and specialized schools; professors coming to teach or do research at institutions of higher learning; research scholars; professional trainees in the medical and allied fields; and international visitors coming for the purpose of travel, observation, consultation, research, training, sharing, or demonstrating specialized knowledge or skills, or participating in organized people-to-people programs.