H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa for Professional Workers

The basic requirement for a H-1B visa is a Bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, and a job offer which requires the degree. The visa petition is filed by the U.S. employer and the work authorization is specific to the employer.

It is necessary to obtain an approved labor condition attestation from the Department of Labor prior to filing the petition with the Immigration Service.  This is required to ensure that the wages and working conditions do not undermine those for U.S. workers. The H-1B visa may be approved for up to three years, and it can be extended for a total of six years. If an application for permanent residency is submitted at least one year prior to the end of the sixth year, additional yearly extensions may be granted. Spouses and minor children are eligible for H-4 dependent status, which does not grant employment authorization.

Free-Trade Agreement H-1B1 Visas

The Free-Trade Agreement H-1B1 visa is available to professionals from Chile and Singapore. There are 1,400 H-1B1 visas for Chileans and 5,400 H-1B1 visas set aside for Singaporeans. Free-Trade Agreement H-1B1 visas are issued for 18 months and are renewable. Spouses and minor children are eligible for H-4 dependent status, which does not grant employment authorization.

L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa

The L-1 intracompany transferee visa is available to managers, executives and persons holding specialized knowledge who own or are employed by a business abroad. If the company has a U.S. branch office or affiliate, and they have a common ownership relationship, it is possible to obtain an L-1 intracompany transferee visa. The maximum period of admission for managers and executives is seven years, with a five-year limit for the specialized knowledge category.

If the U.S. branch office is new, the L-1 will be approved only for one year.  Extensions require proof of employees and substantial business activity.  Large sales revenue, as well as several layers of employees, are key to securing the extension. If the extension is obtained, and the overseas company continues to operate, it is usually possible to apply for permanent resident status as a first preference multinational manager.

Spouses of L-1 visa holders are also allowed to obtain work authorization.

TN NAFTA Visas

The North American Free Trade Agreement provides for work visas for certain Canadian and Mexican professionals with U.S. job offers. The TN visa is issued for three years and can be renewed. Spouses and minor children are eligible for TD (Treaty Dependent) visas, which do not allow employment authorization

E-3 Visa for Australian Professionals

The E-3 visa is for Australian professionals coming to the United States to perform services in a specialty occupation, i.e., an occupation that requires a Bachelor’s degree as a minimum for entry into that occupation. The H-1B regulations are used as a basis to determine what constitutes a “specialty occupation.” The E-3 visa is issued for an initial period of two years and may be extended in two-year increments. The E-3 is limited to 10,500 visas per year.

Spouses of E-3 visa holders are also allowed to obtain work authorization.