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There are almost 60 different types of temporary US non-immigrant visas in addition to immigrant permanent residence routes, known as the 'Green Card'

We can help you decide on the type of US non-immigrant work visa to apply for when bringing in non-US nationals. This guide should provide you with a basic understanding of the various US non-immigrant work visa routes.

This on-line guide cover the most commonly used visas for professional and management level staff. If you have a query about another visa type, please contact us.

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. Temporary worker visas are for persons who want to enter the United States for employment lasting a fixed period of time, and are not considered permanent or indefinite. Each of these visas requires the prospective employer to first file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). An approved petition is required to apply for a work visa.

Usually the best way in which to employ people in the US is to apply for a non-immigrant work visa such at the L-1 visa, E-2 visa or H-1B visa. The employment based immigrant categories (Green Cards) will probably take too long . Once the candidate arrives in the US on the USA visa, you can then look at applying for an employment based immigrant visa.

L-1A Managers and Executives and L-1B Specialzed Knowledge Worker Visas

The L-1 US non-immigrant work visa can be used to transfer staff who have been employed for at least one year in the last three years by your parent, subsidiary or affiliated companies outside the US to a new or existing office in the US. This is also a useful visa route for businesses wishing to set up a new business in the US with a minimal investment.

B-1 Business Visitor visas

If you wish to send someone to the US on a short term basis for say six months it may be worth applying for a B-1 business visitor visa. If you wish to send someone to the US that is a national of a visa waiver Country for up to ninety days then this is a quicker process. Visit visas in the US are called B-1 visitors for business visas or B-2 visitors for pleasure visas. Please see our B1 Visitor Visa page for more details.

TN1 Visas for Canadians

Easier visa options exist is if the candidate you wish to hire is a Canadian. The NAFTA Treaty between the US and Canada mean that it is far easier to obtain a work visa for people in certain occupations if the candidate is Canadian. Please see our TN1 visa page (for more information. Unfortunately, Canada suffers from many of the same skills shortages as the US, so you may need to consider hiring someone from elsewhere instead.

H-1B Visas

Concerning the US work visa, there are three main categories for professionals. The H-1B visa is probably the best known non-immigrant work visa. However, when the US economy is doing well the visa runs out at the beginning of April within a few days. There is then a lottery for the available visas. US employers wishing to employ graduate level staff may wish to consider applying for the H-1B visa. However, because of the shortage of visas the likelihood of success is low.

Federal U.S. Tax Information

Aliens employed in the U.S. may have a U.S. Tax obligation. See on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Taxation of Non Resident Aliens.

The table below provides a summary of the main types of US work visas available

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

(to see a full table of visas types pls use a wide screen device)


Labor Certification

Some temporary worker visa categories require your prospective employer to obtain a labor certification or other approval from the Department of Labor on your behalf before filing the Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, with USCIS. Your prospective employer should review the Instructions for Form I-129 on the USCIS website to determine whether labor certification is required for you.

Petition Approval

Some temporary worker categories are limited in total number of petitions which can be approved on a yearly basis. Before you can apply for a temporary worker visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, Form I-129, must be filed on your behalf by a prospective employer and be approved by USCIS. For more information about the petition process, eligibility requirements by visa category, and numerical limits, if applicable, see Working in the U.S. and Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers on the USCIS website. Once the petition is approved, USCIS will send your prospective employer a Notice of Action, Form I-797.


Read also Investment Attraction. Funding for projects


Entering the United States

A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (generally an airport) and request permission to enter the United States. A visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials at the port-of-entry have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the United States, the CBP official will provide an admission stamp or paper Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. Learn more about admissions and entry requirements, restrictions about bringing food, agricultural products, and other restricted/prohibited goods, and more by reviewing the CBP website.

Extending Your Stay

See Extend Your Stay on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website to learn about requesting to extend your stay beyond the date indicated on your admission stamp or paper Form I-94.

Failure to depart the United States on time will result in you being out of status. Under U.S. law, visas of travelers who are out of status are automatically voided (Section 222(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act). If you had a multiple-entry visa and it was voided due to you being out of status, it will not be valid for future entries into the United States.

Failure to depart the United States on time may also result in you being ineligible for visas you may apply for in the future. Review Visa Denials and Ineligibilities and Waivers: Laws to learn more.

Change of Status

While in the United States, you may be able to request that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) change your nonimmigrant status to another nonimmigrant category. See Change My Nonimmigrant Status on the USCIS website to learn more.

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Requesting a change of status from USCIS while you are in the United States and before your authorized stay expires does not require that you apply for a new visa. However, if you cannot remain in the United States while USCIS processes your change of status request, you must apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Additional Information

  • The approval of a petition does not guarantee that you will be issued a visa. Do not make final travel plans or buy tickets until you have a visa.
  • Spouse and Children –
    • With the exception of Cultural Exchange Visitor Q-1 visa applicants, your spouse and unmarried, minor children may also apply for the same visa category as you to accompany or join you. You must be able to show that you will be able to financially support your family in the United States. 
    • For information about employment and study, review Temporary Workers information and Employment Authorization on the USCIS website.
  • Unless canceled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date.  Therefore, a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport is still valid. If you have a valid visa in your expired passport, do not remove it from your expired passport. You may use your valid visa in your expired passport along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.