There are several H visa categories, including: (a) H-1B professionals,
including H-1B1 visas for nationals of Chile and Singapore; (b) H-2A temporary
or seasonal agricultural workers in short supply; (c) H-2B temporary nonagricultural
workers in short supply; and (d) H-3 trainees.
Spouses and minor children accompanying a principal H worker or trainee may apply for and obtain derivative H-4 nonimmigrant status, which does not permit employment.
There is an annual limit on the number of non immigrants who may be issued visas or given status in the H-1B, H-1B1, and H-2B classifications. The periods of admission in the various H visa categories differ between the categories.
Multinational companies seeking to establish or expand its presence in the United States will find the L-1 intracompany transferee visa to be a useful and efficient vehicle. The visa classification facilitates the employment of qualifying managers and executives (L-1A), and employees with specialized knowledge (L-1B) on a temporary basis at a related corporate entity in the United States.
Spouses and minor children of L-1 non-immigrants may hold L-2 status. The
status of an L-2 dependent is subject to the same period of admission
and limitations as the principal L-1. L-2 spouses, but not L-2 children,
are eligible for employment.
Special regulatory provisions apply to L-1 transferees who come to the United States for the purpose of opening a new office. The new office petition is initially approved for one year. At the end of the year, the L-1 transferee can apply for an extension and remain as a non-immigrant or self petition as a multinational executive or manager under EB-1 category to become a permanent resident.
The L-1 intracompany transferee visa can also be used by an owner or major
stockholder of one of the business entities.
Individual initial petitions may be granted for up to three years, with a possible two-year extension for all L employees and a two-year extension beyond that for managers and executives.
Provided that the U.S. employer has been doing business in the U.S. for at least one year, an L-1 intracompany transferee may have the option of “upgrading his status” to permanent resident under the EB-1 category as a multinational executive and/or manager.
Pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA),Canadian and
Mexican citizens may apply for admission in TN status to engage in certain
business activities at a professional level for specified occupations
listed in the NAFTA.
TN non-immigrants may be admitted for an initial period of up to 3 years. One key advantage of this status is that there is no maximum limit of authorized stay in TN status. Therefore, H-1 or L-1 temporary workers who have reached the limit of extensions may still be able to change their status to TN, provided that they meet the nationality and occupational eligibility criteria, among others.
TN status (unlike H or L status) requires the noncitizen to have nonimmigrant intent.
The E nonimmigrant is defined as an alien entitled to enter the United
States under and in pursuance of the provisions of a treaty of commerce
and navigation between the United States and the foreign state of which
he or she is a national.
The E non-immigrant visa is a useful avenue for foreign nationals wanting to engage in self employment in the USA.
The E category consists of three subcategories: treaty traders (E-1), treaty investors (E-2), and Australians working in specialty occupations (E-3).
The spouse and dependent children (unmarried and under age 21) of an E-1 or E-2 nonimmigrant are entitled to the same classification as the principal foreign national. The nationality of a spouse and child is not material to their eligibility.
A noncitizen employee of a treaty trader may be classified E-1 and a noncitizen
employee of a treaty investor may be classified E-2, if the employee is
in or is coming to the United States to engage in duties of an executive
or supervisory character, or, if employed in a lesser capacity, the employee
has special qualifications that make the services to be rendered essential
to the efficient operation of the enterprise. Employees of treaty traders
or treaty investors seeking E status must have the same nationality as
The maximum validity period for an E visa will depend upon reciprocity with the foreign national’s country of nationality. In many cases this will be five years. There are no limit on the number of renewals.
The O classification accommodates a wide range of talented or acclaimed foreign nationals who may not qualify in other work-related nonimmigrant categories such as H or L, or who wish to avoid them. Especially helpful to those in the arts and athletics, entertainers, chefs, and highly accomplished business people lacking professional degrees, O classification is a useful, flexible alternative to the H-1B program because it has no wage maintenance feature, no overall limit on time in classification, and no cap.
O-1 beneficiaries in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics
must have extraordinary ability “demonstrated by sustained national
or international acclaim.” “Extraordinary,” however,
entails a high standard as applied to business persons, scientists, educators,
and athletes, and a much lower one as applied to artists and entertainers.
Foreign nationals intending to work in motion picture and television productions
must show “a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement,”
a standard that falls somewhere in the middle.
Foreign nationals seeking to accompany O-1 foreign nationals in the arts, motion picture and television productions, and athletics can apply for O-2 classification. There is no corresponding statutory provision for foreign nationals to accompany scientists, educators, or business people. O-2 foreign nationals cannot work separate and apart from the O-1 foreign national in question.
An O-1 non immigrant who has reached the top in his/her field may “upgrade his status” to permanent residence. One of the challenges of an “O” visa practice is identifying when an O-1 nonimmigrant worker has reached a level in his or her field that gives rise to an EB-1 immigrant petition, the approval which would classify the individual for an immigrant visa. This is a desired outcome for myriad reasons, not the least of which is the elimination of any future need to extend visa status, the need to renew a visa, the ability to confer permanent residence on spouse and children, and the freedom to work independently rather than being tied to an employer or agent sponsor.
The I visa category is available to individuals who are representatives of foreign media. The basis for this visa is a reciprocal arrangement between the United States and the applicant’s home country allowing U.S. journalists to be admitted under similar conditions. Individuals who are working for foreign press, radio, film, or other information media can enter under this category as long as they are employed with foreign media.
R visas are given to people in ministry, such as ministers or those working for religious organizations. They are considered R-1 religious workers when they enter the U.S. Spouses and children may be allowed to enter by pursuing a R-2 visa.
To qualify, an individual should be a member of a religious denomination for at least two years prior to filing and have a nonprofit religious status in the U.S. Admission is usually up to three years, but can be extended for up to two more years.
This visa is for individuals who are involved in some type of international cultural exchange program that has been approved under the purpose of employment, training, and / or sharing of culture and history of the individual's nationality. This program must typically be involved in a museum, school, company, or similar type of establishment. The point is to exhibit or explain customs, heritage, philosophy, tradition, and more of an immigrant's home country, providing a cultural objective. There is a limit of 15 months on Q visas. Further, the person must be a foreign resident who is employed under the wages and conditions that a U.S. worker is.
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