Are you a foreigner interested in a job in the United States? Then you need a work visa to legally work in the United States. Several types of work visas are available for foreigners wishing to work in the United States, including green cards (for permanent residence), temporary work visas, seasonal work visas, and employee exchange visas.
The type of visa you qualify for depends on the type of work you do, whether you have a relationship with an employer and, in some cases, your country of origin. The guidelines for obtaining permission to work in the United States vary depending on the type of visa and the entry requirements for that visa.
Here you will find information on any type of U.S. work visa, including eligibility and requirements, plus information about applying for a visa. It is important to note that these requirements may change at any time, which is why we have provided links to government resources, which is the most reliable source of updated information on restrictions, quotas and guidelines for green card and visa applications.
1. Requirements for Work visas in the United States
What is a U.S. Work Visa and AWhy Do You Need One? A visa is a document that allows travel to and admission to a specific country, in this case the United States. Before visiting, working or immigrating to the United States, a citizen of a foreign country must generally obtain a US visa.
The visa grants entry into the United States and, depending on the type of visa obtained, may authorize employment in the United States.
Having a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States, but it does indicate that a consular officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate has determined that you qualify for entry for the specific purpose stated on the visa. Visas are available from the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest to your residence abroad.
2. U.S. Green Cards
It is possible to become a permanent resident (Green Card holder) of the United States through a job or job offer. There is also a lottery program that offers a limited number of green cards to successful applicants.
However, some categories require certification from the United States Department of Labor to demonstrate that there are not enough U.S. workers who are capable, willing, qualified, and available in the geographic area where the immigrant will work and that there are no U.S. workers displaced by foreign workers.
The United States Immigration Act provides foreigners with several ways to obtain a green card by working in the United States. These employment-based (EB) “preferred immigrants” categories include:
(EB-1) – First priority for priority workers, including “foreigners with extraordinary skills in science, art, education, business or athletics; excellent professors and researchers; or selected multinational managers and executives.”
(EB2) – Second preference for “foreign nationals who are members of the professions with higher education or exceptional qualifications (including requests for waiver of national interest)”.
(EB3) – Third preference for foreigners who are “skilled workers, professionals or other workers”.
(EB4) – Fourth preference for special immigrants such as religious workers, neglected / abused youth and retired officers or employees of certain international organizations, or NATO, and certain family members.
(EB5) Fifth Preference for Immigrant Investors: “Foreigners who have invested or are actively investing [amounts of at least] $ 1 million (or $ 500,000 in targeted employment areas) in a new commercial venture that will benefit the US economy and create at least 10 full-time jobs for eligible employees.”
US Citizenship and Immigration Services has more information about applying for a green card.
3. Green Card Lottery Programs
The Annual Green Card Lottery Program (Diversity Immigrant Visa Program) is an opportunity for prospective immigrants to acquire permanent US resident status. This program runs every year and offers green cards to randomly selected applicants in a lottery process – known as the Green Card Lottery. Applicants must apply long before the actual date to enter the country. The current lottery is DV2021, which means that lottery winners can enter the country in 2021.
Eligibility is limited for natives from some countries. The list of eligible countries is placed with the guidelines for each year’s diversity program. Less than one percent of applicants are selected to undergo the process, including background checks. The State Department currently estimates that 55,000 green cards will be awarded as a result of DV2021.
Immigrants from the following countries are excluded from the Diversity Lottery: Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) , and Vietnam.
4. Exchange Visitor Visas
U.S. Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visas are available to individuals who are approved to participate in work and study-based exchange visitor programs. With these visas, visitors can experience life in the United States before returning to their home country appreciating American culture and lifestyle.
According to the State Department, eligible categories of visitors for this type of visa include au pairs, camp supervisors, students, interns, physicians, professors, scientists, teachers, and interns.
5. Temporary Work Visas (Non-Agricultural)
U.S. temporary non-agricultural (H-2B) visas are available to foreign workers in non-agricultural fields to work in the United States, provided there are not enough domestic workers to perform the position. H-2B visas are generally used for jobs that are temporary, but not for agriculture – for example, jobs in ski mountains, hotels, beach resorts or amusement parks.
There is a limit – currently 66,000 per year – on the number of employees who receive this type of visa. Read more about current requirements and restrictions with US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
6. Visas for Temporary Workers (Skilled Workers)
US H1-B visas for non-immigrants are intended for skilled, well-trained individuals working in specialized professions. The H1-B visa allows foreign workers to work temporarily for a specific employer in the United States.
To apply, you must have an employee-employer relationship, work in a specific high-demand specialist profession, and be paid above the applicable pay for that job. There is a limit of 65,000 regular H1-B visas issued each year and another 20,000 for those eligible for the advanced exemptions. The USCIS website contains the latest instructions and forms for H1-B visas.
7. Seasonal Visas for Agricultural Workers
U.S. Seasonal Worker (H2-A) visas are available for foreign farm workers to work on a seasonal or temporary basis in the United States, provided there is a shortage of domestic workers. Visas are limited to three years and immigrants must be from a country on the list of selected countries.
8. Eligibility to Work in The United States
When you obtain the correct visa, you must obtain a work permit, officially known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), to prove that you are eligible to work in the United States. The document provides evidence to employers that you are legally permitted to work in the United States