Immigration Lawyer New York
       

Temporary Visas & US Work Visas

These are overviews only, and do not constitute legal advice for any specific situation.

A - B - C - D - E - F - G - H - I - J- K - L - M- N - NATO - O - P - Q - R- S - TN - T - U - V

A
The A-1 and A-2 visas are for Diplomats, consular staff, other foreign government officials and their family dependents, and the A-3 visa is available for personal employees of diplomatic personnel. The A-1, A-2 and A-3 visas are issued directly in the foreign country, for an initial validity period of up to three years, and diplomats and their dependents must register with the State Department through the employer once they enter the U.S. Some A-1 and A-2 family dependents are eligible for employment authorization, based on reciprocal agreements with their country and the type of diplomatic position held by the principal.

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B
B visas are for Visitors. Although many visitors do not need a visa stamp, the B visa is for people from countries not included in the Visa Waiver Program, visitors from VWP countries who have a legitimate need to stay for longer than 90 days, and visitors who are ineligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program due to a past overstay, other immigration violation, or a criminal violation for which they have obtained a waiver. There are two types of B visas: B-1 business visitors (not for employment in the U.S.), and B-2 visitors for pleasure. All visitors, whether on B visas or under the VWP, are presumed to have immigrant intent, and must prove to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate and to the inspecting officer at a port of entry that they do not intend to remain in the U.S. indefinitely, that they do not plan to work or study in the U.S., that they have enough funds to cover the costs of their temporary visit, and must show proof of sufficient family, property, employment and financial ties to ensure their return to the home country. Visitors under the Visa Waiver Program may not extend their stay or change status in the U.S. 

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C
C visas are for Transit through the US, such as a layover with a connecting flight in a few days to another destination country. C visas are for a maximum stay of 29 days, which may not be extended.

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D
Crewmen serving in such capacity on a vessel in port, including air and sea vessels, may be admitted in D visa status for a maximum of 29 days, which may not be extended.

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E
Treaty visas come in three distinct types, but all require an appropriate treaty between the U.S. and the home country. E visas may be applied for directly at a U.S. Embassy, and do not require an underlying approved petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by the U.S. employer. An E dependent spouse may apply for employment authorization.

E-1 Treaty Traders enter under a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between the United States and the foreign country of which the person (and the employer) is a national. For E visa purposes, a person’s nationality is that of a country whose passport he carries, regardless of place of birth, even though elsewhere in U.S. immigration law the concepts of nationality and citizenship are differentiated. A company’s nationality is determined by the nationality of the majority of its owners. The E-1 treaty trader must be coming solely to carry on substantial trade principally between the United States and the foreign country of which he or she is a national. The initial admission is for two years, but an E-1 visa may be granted for up to five years. Extensions of stay are possible upon filing an updated application, which should report the current volume of annual trade between the treaty country and the U.S. enterprise. While there is no requirement for the trader to have an unabandoned domicile abroad, the treaty trader must intend to return to a home abroad once the purpose of admission has been accomplished.

E-2 Treaty investors. Treaty investors also may come under the provisions of a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation between the United States and the foreign country of which he/she is a national(*same definition as for E-1, above), solely to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which he or she has invested, or is actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital. The initial period of admission is two years, and the visa may be granted for up to five years, with extensions available in appropriate circumstances. Executives, managers, and essential specialized employees of foreign firms from a treaty country where the foreign firm has made a controlling investment in the U.S. company may also qualify. Treaty investors must also intend to return to the home country at the conclusion of their E-2 employment.

E-3 Australian professionals may come to the U.S. under the terms of a recent trade agreement with Australia, to perform work in a professional specialty occupation, i.e. a job for which a related bachelor’s degree is the normal minimum for entry-level employment, for which they have the appropriate educational credentials. The U.S. employer must offer to pay the prevailing wage for the job, and must file a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor to affirm the wage offer. E-3 visas are granted for a period of two years, renewable in two year increments, but the worker has an ongoing obligation to demonstrate nonimmigrant intent.

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F
An F-1 student visa may be issued to a foreign student enrolled in a full-time course of study in a degree-granting program at an authorized academic institution of secondary or higher education in the U.S. Students must prove that they do not intend to immigrate to the U.S. and have strong ties to their home country. No petition is required, but the school must issue a Form I-20 to the foreign student, and then the student must register for inclusion in the SEVIS database, in order to be issued the visa. SEVIS is used to monitor maintenance of visa status by foreign students and scholars. Although F-1 students must show sufficient funds to support themselves throughout the full course of study, if a student has demonstrated enough funding for the family to live on, dependent family members may accompany the principal in F-2 status. F-1 students are admitted for “D/S” or “duration of status,” meaning a period of stay is authorized for as long as the student remains enrolled in an approved course of study. F-1 status may continue for up to a year after completion of a degree program if the school has authorized a period of “optional practical training” after graduation, and the student has obtained employment authorization. F-1 students have a grace period of 60 days to depart the U.S. after completion of an educational program or a period of authorized practical training.

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G
Employees of international organizations, such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the IADB, etc. may be accorded G visas. This is a quasi-diplomatic visa category, also not based on a petition because it does not count as U.S. employment. Like diplomats in A visa status, G employees and their dependent family members are required to be registered with the State Department during their stay. Some G dependents are eligible for employment authorization, depending on reciprocal agreements with the home country.

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H
The H-1B for professional specialty occupations
is by far the most common type of temporary work visa in the U.S. A job qualifies for H-1b classification where it requires a related bachelor’s degree or higher for entry-level employment, and the foreign worker qualifies if he or she has the relevant educational credentials for the offered job. In some cases, the worker may qualify via an equivalent to the right degree through combined education, training and progressive work experience, as determined by a U.S. credentials evaluator. The employer must offer to pay the prevailing wage for the job in the area where the job is located, and must file a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor to affirm the appropriate wage offer and working conditions. However, there is a numerical limit on how many H-1B visas can be granted in a fiscal year. When demand is high, as it has been in recent years, these visas may be unavailable for long periods of time. Family dependents may obtain H-4 visas, but spouses in H-4 status are ineligible to work.

H-2B temporary workers whose services are required for less than one year may fill a short-term need that makes the job intrinsically temporary. Types of employer needs that are covered by this visa include a one-time, seasonal, peak-load or intermittent need. A temporary application for labor certification must be filed with and approved by the Department of Labor before a petition can be filed by the H-2 employer for any temporary workers. The initial period of admission is less than one year (maximum of 364 days) and extensions may granted if an unforeseen aspect of need develops. The maximum stay allowed is three years, at which point no change of status to any other visa classification may be granted.

H-3 trainees may come to complete training that is not available in their home country, and not to staff positions ordinarily filled by U.S. workers. The U.S. company must file a petition with USCIS that includes a detailed outline of the training program, and the maximum period of stay allowed is 2 years. Change of status to another visa classification cannot be granted after the trainee has been in the U.S. for 18 months.

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I
The I visa for journalists and other representatives of foreign information media may be obtained directly at an Embassy or Consulate, by presenting a press card and a signed employment contract. Admission is for duration of employment with the foreign media organization. Foreign media representatives must be engaged in the production or collection of media to be distributed outside the U.S. Writing, editing, photographing or producing news is covered; work on entertainment programming is not covered.

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J
There are two types of Exchange Visitors: J-1 scholars in graduate programs or post-graduate research fellowships, and J-1 trainees/interns in professional training programs based at a U.S. employer. In a marked departure from past policy, new regulations effective in July 2007 restricted J-1 eligibility to individuals who have completed a college degree outside the U.S. and have at least one year of related work experience, or individuals with at least five years of relevant work experience outside the U.S. This effectively ends the use of the J-1 program by anyone who has completed their higher education at U.S. institutions.
The authorizing institution must issue a Form DS-2019 to the Exchange Visitor, who must then register for inclusion in the SEVIS database before a J-1 visa can be issued. J-2 visas are available for dependents, and J-2 spouses are eligible for employment authorization. The initial period of admission allowed will be indicated on Form DS-2019. The maximum stay for J-1 scholars is 5 years, but the maximum for trainees is 18 months, and for interns it is 12 months. The new regulations prohibit switching to a different J-1 program or admission to a second J-1 program after completion of a first. J-1 exchange visitors have a grace period of 30 days in which to depart after completion of a program. 
Many J-1 exchange visitors are subject to a requirement to return to their home country for two years upon completion of their program, and may not seek permanent residence, or H or L work visas until they have satisfied that requirement or obtained a waiver.

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K
The K-1 visa is for the fiancé of a U.S. citizen who intends to enter the U.S. to marry that person within 90 days after admission, and must be based on an approved by petition by the U.S. citizen. K-1 fiancés are ineligible for change to any other nonimmigrant visa status, and may only apply for permanent residence on the basis of marriage to the U.S. citizen petitioner. The K-2 visa is available for the minor child of such a fiancé, and requires a separate petition by the U.S. citizen. 

The K-3 visa is available to the spouse of a U.S. citizen who has already filed an immigrant visa petition, where that petition is pending but has not yet been approved. The K-3 visa is only available where the U.S. citizen and the visa applicant were married outside the U.S., and can only be issued in the country where the marriage took place.The K-4 visa is available for the minor child of such a spouse, and requires a separate petition by the U.S. citizen

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L
The L-1 visa for intracompany transferees is available to those who have worked for a company abroad for at least one year, full time, in a managerial or specialized-knowledge position, and who are coming to work for a U.S. branch office or a U.S. company that is a parent, subsidiary, or commonly-held affiliate of that foreign employer. The L-1A visa is for managers and executives. The L-1B visa is for workers with specialized knowledge of the sponsoring company's processes, policies or technologies that is not readily available in the U.S. labor market. Either may be granted for an initial period of up to three years, but extensions are granted in two year increments. The maximum stay allowed is seven years for an L-1A, and five years for an L-1B. The L-2 visa is available for family dependents, and spouses in L-2 status may apply for employment authorization.

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M
The M-1 visa is for vocational students enrolled full-time in a formal education program at an authorized non-academic vocational or technical school. M-1 students are issued a Form I-20MN by the school, and must register for inclusion in the SEVIS database. M-1 students are admitted for a fixed time period, which is the time necessary to complete the course of study, plus any authorized practical training (the maximum is two months) plus a grace period of 30 days to depart after completion of the program or practical training.

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N
The N visa is available to the parent or child of a special immigrant who has obtained permanent residence as a retired employee of an international organization, or as the unmarried son or daughter of an employee or retired employee of such organization. N nonimmigrants are automatically authorized to work.

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NATO
There is a class of NATO visas, for representatives and employees of NATO and for private contractors with the U.S. or foreign government, or with NATO itself, where the foreign worker is directly assigned to work on a NATO contract project. These visas are not petition-based, and are issued directly a the Embassy in the home country, with documentation from the NATO-affiliated sponsor.

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O
The O-1 visa is for aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts, the sciences, business, education, or athletics, or extraordinary achievement in film and television. This visa requires a petition by a U.S. employer or agent, with proof of individual renown and advisory opinion from the relevant union or peer group. An O-1 visa can be issued initially for up to three years, and may be renewed thereafter in one-year increments. There is no maximum stay limit on O-1 extensions. While O-1 classification requires nonimmigrant intent, the filing of an immigrant petition by itself is not grounds for an O denial or visa refusal. For performing artists and athletes, the O-2 visa is available for accompanying essential support personnel who have worked with the O-1 alien for a year or more. Dependent family members may be granted O-3 visas.

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P
The P-1 visa is available for internationally recognized entertainment groups and sports teams. It requires a petition by a U.S. employer or agent, and an advisory consultation from a union or peer group. The P-2 visa for workers in a reciprocal exchange program, typically through a foreign labor union that has a US sister-organization, is usually handed directly by the union. The P-3 visa is available to groups and individual artists or entertainers who are coming to the U.S. to perform in a culturally unique discipline in which they have achieved distinction. "Culturally unique" denotes a discipline historically associated with a particular national, ethnic or linguistic group, such as flamenco, gamelan or capoeira. Like the O-1, this category also requires a petition by a U.S. employer or agent, and advisory consultation with a union or peer group. For the P visas, the initial period of admission is up to three years, and the maximum stay allowed is five years.

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Q
Q-1 international cultural exchange visitors may come to participate in a program to educate people in the U.S. about the culture of their home country, based on a petition by the U.S. cultural organization, which should have a reciprocal program with an organization in the foreign country to educate its citizens about the U.S. There is no status for dependents and the maximum stay is 15 months.

The Q-2 visa for Irish peace process cultural and training program visitors is available to residents of Northern Ireland or certain northern counties, between the ages of 18 and 35. Individuals must either be nominated by a current employer, or be unemployed for at least three months and then nominated by the Training & Employment Agency of Northern Ireland or the TEA of Ireland to participate in the program. The maximum period of admission is 3 years. Q-3 visas are available for Q-2 dependents.

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R
R-1 religious workers may come to work temporarily in a religious profession, vocation or occupation for a tax-exempt U.S. religious organization in the faith and denomination of which that worker has been an active member for at least the past 2 years. Under a new rule published on 11/26/2008, the U.S. religious organization needs to file a petition even if the worker is abroad; a religious worker may no longer apply for the R-1 visa directly at an Embassy without an approved petition. Initial admission in R-1 status is for thirty months, and the maximum stay allowed is 60 months (five years). Proof of compensation must be included with the petition - all R-1 nonimmigrants must receive compensation in the form of either salary, or room and board, unless they are coming to the U.S. to work as missionaries as part of an established, international missionary service program within their religious denomination, in which case evidence of that program must be provided, along with evidence of how they will be supported during their stay in the U.S.  R-2 visas are available to family dependents, who are ineligible to work.

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S
The S visas were created for individuals who either leave the U.S. or fall out of valid nonimmigrant status who then agree to cooperate with federal or state law enforcement agencies in the U.S. to aid in the investigation and prosecution of a criminal enterprise, or a terrorist organization or enterprise, and who are deemed by the Attorney General to be critical and reliable witnesses or informants. An application must be made on behalf of the witness directly by the interested federal or state law enforcement agency, which must be approved at the seat-of-government level, and the witness must sign a statement agreeing to the terms of S visa status.

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TN
Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, nationals of Canada or Mexico are eligible for temporary admission to the U.S. to work in any of 64 designated occupations if they have the appropriate educational credentials required for that job. Admission in TN-1 status is for one to three years, renewable indefinitely in one to three year increments, but with an ongoing requirement of nonimmigrant intent. Nationals of Canada are visa-exempt and may apply directly at the border with a job offer letter from the U.S. employer and their original educational credentials; nationals of Mexico must first apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy, but visa stamps can be issued in increments of two years even though admission is only for one year at a time. Family dependent are eligible for TD status, and need not be nationals of Canada or Mexico, but are ineligible to work.

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T
T visa status was created for victims of severe forms of human trafficking who are physically present in the U.S. and who can assist in the investigation or prosecution of traffickers as material witnesses. The application for T visa status requires an endorsement by a law enforcement agency investigating the trafficker(s). Nearly all grounds of inadmissibility may be waived, and individuals in T visa status may adjust to permanent residence after three years. A total of 5,000 T visas may be granted per fiscal year, and 5,000 adjustments may be granted per year for individuals in T visa status.

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U
The U visa category is for those who entered in another nonimmigrant visa status but who are prevented from timely departure or fail to maintain status because they suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity involving a violation of one or more federal, state or local criminal statutes relating to rape, torture, trafficking, incest, domestic violence and other such similar crimes. The victim must provide information helpful to the investigation or prosecution of the crime, and a petition for U visa status must be accompanied by a certification from a law enforcement agency involved. Nearly all grounds of inadmissibility may be waived, and individuals in U visa status may adjust to permanent residence after three years. A maximum stay of 4 years in U status is allowed. U visas are limited to 10,000 per fiscal year. 

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V
Certain spouses and children of lawful permanent residents who were beneficiaries of a family-based second preference petition filed before December 21, 2000, which was pending for at least three years, were eligible to receive V nonimmigrant visas while awaiting the approval of the petition, the availability of an immigrant visa number, or the completion of adjustment of status. The V visa is essentially obsolete, as the statute has not been updated to cover more recent filings.

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Karin Wolman is admitted to the bar in the State of New York.
Her practice is limited to U.S. Immigration & Nationality law.

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