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USA Visa


How can I get a work visa?

There are a number of options depending on the type of employment and your background. A few examples are H-1b for professionals, L-1 for executives and managers being transferred from international companies to existing or to start US affiliated companies, O-1 for extraordinary ability people in business, art, science, athletics, science, TN visas for Canadians and Mexican professionals, H-2b for seasonal workers, P-1 for professional and some amateur athletes, J-1 for interns or trainees.E-2 for investors/owners from treaty countries.

For a typical non-immigrant or temporary work visa, an employer serves as petitioner also called sponsor and the foreign national is the beneficiary. The designated sponsor is an employer that has a position that meets the qualification of a particular visa.

How can I apply for a work visa on my own?

Employment visas require an employer to be the petitioner and you to be the beneficiary. This requires a job offer. The only employment related visa that does not require an employer is the Extraordinary Ability Permanent Residency Visa also called the EB-1 Green card. Agents can file on behalf of athletes and entertainers.

Can I hire someone to assist me in processing my papers?

Yes. But it should be a licensed attorney. US Immigration law is very complex and changes regularly. Many cases differ because of the numerous factors that may occur in different visas, occupations or employee or individual’s backgrounds.

What documents do I need to submit?

This varies based upon the visa. Some may require a letter detailing the terms of the position and in some cases a contract, appropriate forms, possibly expert letters, evidence to support the regulations such as newspaper clippings or awards, union or no objection letters, transcripts, diplomas, passports, etc. The burden is on the petitioner to submit the appropriate documents to prove it meets the criteria for the visa.

How long do I wait for my papers to be processed?

Some but not all of the temporary or non-immigrant work visas have premium processing option of processing in less than 15 days, the non-premium track can take a few months. Permanent Residency can take a number of years due to backlogs in the system. Some countries are longer than others in certain green card categories. Some temporary visas can be extended while Green card processing is pending.

Where can I check on the status of my application?

Once you receive a receipt number from your submitted case you can check the status of the case at If the case was filed using premium processing service, you will receive a telephone and e-mail address to check.

Can I come to the USA on a tourist visa to find work?

It is permissible to look for jobs under a tourist visa. You can enter the U.S. on a tourist visa to explore work opportunities such as interviewing for jobs, speaking engagements, compete to a certain extent in athletic tournaments, or initiate investment into a company. However, you cannot work without a work visa. If you visit on a work visa, it is improper to immediately seek a change of status to a work visa, but must wait sixty days to change your intent from visitor to worker.

What happens when an employer asks me to work immediately without a valid working visa?

Both of you are at risk. The employee may be deported. This may not happen immediately but after years of lawful visa holding status. It could be discovered on a tax return or payroll slip. The employers have much more liability now than ever before. Immigration’s enforcement unit ICE may make inquiries of I-9 compliance for all employees or raid a work place. Social Security may issue no match letters. Hiring someone without a visa could mean civil penalties or criminal prosecution for employers.

If you choose to work without a valid employment visa, the risks are:

Aside from obtaining a work visa, how else can I reside in the USA?

The options are Employment based, Investor or Family Based. Investor visas are available under the EB-5 category for investors and their immediate family under 21 years of age. This requires either an investment of $1 Million or $500,000 into an American company that will create 10 jobs within 2 years. Another option is the family based Green card. There are several categories for various types of relatives. The time frame for obtaining them varies depending on the closeness of relations.

How can my partner / spouse or children who work and live in the USA sponsor my residency?

In the family based Green card context, it must be US Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident who make enough money and are willing to take responsibility financially to support you. The Sponsor has to execute a legally binding affidavit of support for the Beneficiary, in which the Sponsor guarantees to maintain the standard of living of the intending immigrant at a level not lower than 125% of the national poverty level. This obligation continues until the Beneficiary has become a U.S. citizen or has worked in the United States for 40 qualifying quarters.

Who can I sponsor when I receive my residency?

You can sponsor your spouse and children under 21 years old. You cannot sponsor foreign national spouses married after you obtain residency.

Upon getting my work visa, can I get permanent residency and acquire citizenship?

You can get apply permanent residency, but you have to qualify under one of the enumerated criteria. Employment Based: EB-1, Extraordinary Ability, Multi-National Executives/Managers, Outstanding Professors or Researchers, EB-2 Advanced Degreed Professionals and Exceptional Ability as well as National Interest Waivers, EB-3 Skilled Workers, EB-4 Religious Workers and other types, EB-5 Investors. Family Based. You must not be convicted of certain crimes, have been a member of certain organizations or suffer certain diseases.

You can acquire citizenship after 3 years under a family based permanent residency visa or 5 years under employment based you can petition for citizenship. You must be able to pass a test and speak English as well as not be convicted of certain crimes. You must not be convicted of certain crimes, have been a member of certain organizations or suffer certain diseases and take an oath of allegiance to the United States of America.

Where can I find information on residency and citizenship?

We offer a comprehensive list of visas and their requirements at I also serve as editor of, where you can learn tips and commentary on Immigration issues and visa processing.

How long is the validity of the work visa before it expires?

This varies with the visa. An H-1b has a three year duration with extensions available for additional three years unless pending green card, then one year extensions if green card initiated one year prior to expiration of second extension. O-1 visas can be approved for three years and approved typically in 1 year increments as long as employment is available thereafter. P-1 visas are granted up to 5 years but can be extended indefinitely. TN visas can be issued for up to 3 years. E-2 visas are granted in initial phases for 1 or more years but can be extended indefinitely in various increments. L-1A visas are valid for typically 3 year increments with a total of 7 years, L-1B visas are valid up to 5 years.

What will my proof of visa be?

If changing status from one visa to another in the United States, USCIS will provide you with an approval notice called an I-797 which will contain an I-94 card for you to attach into your passport. Once you leave the United States, you are required to visit a US Consulate. There you can get a visa with your picture scanned into your passport.

How long can I stay outside the country before my Green Card expires?

Generally one year.

Does the USA have single and multiple entry visas? If so, how do I get multiple entry?

The US has both single and multiple entry visas. Typically work related visas are multiple entry visas and some visitor visas. It is automatic with work visas. There is a choice when selection travel documents (also called advance parole) during the pendency of a permanent residency or Green Card petition.

How can I transfer my sponsorship from one employer to the next?

It requires the filing of a new visa. Transfers are typically less complicated to receive but do have the same filing fees. You cannot change employers and continue on your original visa even if you have time left on your visa.

Is there a grace period to renew employment visas?

No for most visas, with a few exceptions such as the J-1 visa.

After my work visa expires how can I re-enter the USA and accept a new job?

You can stay in the country if you file for an extension prior to the expiration. However, if it expires you must leave the country and re-enter on a new visa.

How do I make sure I don't get banned from re-entry?

If you are out of status for more than 180 days you will get barred for 3 years. If you are out of status more than a year you will be barred for 10 years.

What are the government fees I have to pay for while I'm on my work visa?

All visas have some filing fees. I-129 fees are $325. Some visas have additional fess like the H-1b which has $500 anti-fraud fee and either $750 (less than 25 employee) or $1,500 (more than 25 employees.) L-1 visa has additional fees of $500. Green card visa for employment based have filing fees of $580 while family based fees are $420. Adjusting status to Green Card requires $1,070 for each person over 16. Others vary as well.

If my passport expires before my visa expires, what should I do?

Apply for a new passport and carry both with you. Many people use a rubber band to bind them together.

Will an expat’s child born in the USA acquire citizenship?

Yes. All persons born in the United States are citizens.

I am American currently living overseas with a foreign nationality. What are the requirements for my partner to be able to reside with me in the USA?

Typically, you would need to get married to the foreign national to provide that person permanent residency status. However, if not married that person can obtain his or her own visa to live and reside in the United States if qualified under the various visa options.


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Jon Velie has practiced Immigration law for 18 years. His firm Velie Law Firm is an American Bar Association Award winner and has been declared an innovator of the legal industry when it launched Jon is the editor of Velie
Law Firm provides free Immigration Strategy and Flat Fee Prices. Contact Jon today at or 405-310-4333 if you have an immigration questions or needs. nor the author guarantee the accuracy of the information on this page. It is recommend that particularly prior to your travels you check with the relevant government authority. Please contact us with any updates you may have. Last updated 30 August 2011.

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