An employment visa is a visa that is provided by the United States government that allows foreign nationals to travel to the United States in order to work and live for a specific period of time. An employment visa is a temporary visa and is sometimes referred to as an employment-based visa or a work visa. 

There are several different categories of employment visas. The categories are based on the type of work that the applicant will be doing in the U.S. An employment visa generally allows the applicant’s family to accompany them during their stay in the United States. 

In general, the applicant’s employer must sponsor or petition for the applicant to work in the United States in order for them to receive their visa. The visa holder must remain employed with their sponsor employer during the entirety of their stay. If their sponsor employer goes out of business, the visa holder will likely lose their immigrant status.

What are the Different Employment Visa Categories?

As previously noted, there are many categories of employment visas. The categories are organized according to the abilities and skills of the employee as well as the type of employment they will be engaged in during their stay in the United States.

Although there are numerous types of employment visas, the most common categories are as follows:

  • EB1, or priority workers. These applicants have extraordinary ability in the arts and sciences, or are professors or researchers, or managers; 
  • EB2, or professionals with advanced academic degrees or persons of exceptional ability;
  • EB3 or skilled workers, professionals, and other workers. These applicants have jobs that require 2 years minimum of work experience or training; 
  • EB4, or certain special immigrants. These applicants are religious ministers, broadcasters, and other professionals. The list for this category is very specific and may require the assistance of a lawyer; and
  • EB5, or immigrant investors. These applicants are individuals who are willing to invest a significant amount of resources in creating jobs in the United States.

If an individual or their loved one is interested in obtaining an employment visa, they will have to apply under the appropriate category for their situation. For example, if the individual is a professor of science, they should file under the E1 category. However, if they are a religious minister, the E4 category would be more appropriate. An attorney can help them determine which category is most appropriate.

Other common employment visa categories include H-1B visas and B-1 business visas. An H-1B visa is a work permit that allows an individual to work for an employer in the U.S. in a specialty occupation for a limited time. An individual may hold a H-1B visa for a maximum of 6 years. It can be issued in increments of 3 years at a time. There may be certain conditions in which an employee can hold a H-1B visa for more than 6 years. 

H-1B visas are limited, as only 85,000 are given per year. Many of these visas are limited to individuals who hold advanced degrees from a college or university in the United States.

Occupations that require theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge as well as at least a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent thereof fulfill the specialty occupation requirement of the H-1B visa. Specialty occupations may include:

  • A minimum entry requirement of a bachelor’s or higher degree, or an equivalent;
  • The degree requirement for the job is so unusual to the industry or the job is so complicated or unique that it can only be performed by an individual that holds that specific degree;
  • The employer typically requires a degree or its equivalent for the position; and
  • The nature of the specific duties is so specialized and complex that the knowledge required to perform the duties is typically associated with the attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree.

A business visa, or a B-1 visa is a temporary visa for individuals coming to the United States for business activities. This visa is only given for a specific amount of time and for specific business activities. 

There are many activities that may fall within the business activity definition. Business activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Consulting with business associates;
  • Purchasing goods or materials;
  • Attending conferences;
  • Volunteer work; and
  • Performing research.

There are some activities that are prohibited under the B-1 visa. These include:

  • Starting a United States business or helping a family member with a U.S. business;
  • Working for a United States employer; and
  • Accepting paid work in the United States.

There is documentation that may be required to obtain a B-1 visa. The applicant will need to bring their visa application, a receipt for payment of the application fee, their passport and a photo of themselves to their visa interview.

Additional documentation may be required, including:

  • Evidence of lodging arrangements in the United States;
  • Evidence of ability to fund their trip; and
  • Evidence of their intent to return to their home country.

Immigration officials are constantly on the lookout for fraud. They will be concerned with the visa applicant’s intentions to return to their home country and to ensure they will not attempt to remain in the United States illegally.

What are the Requirements for an Employment-Based Visa?

The main requirement for an employment-based visa is that the applicant meet the employment description listed for the category they are applying under. Aside from meeting the employee qualifications for each category, an employment-based visa typically includes the following requirements:

  • Submitting of proof of employment;
  • The sponsoring employer submitting petition documents and certification;
  • Submitting of various immigration documents, including: 
    • valid passports; 
    • birth certificates; 
    • photo IDs; 
    • medical records; 
    • x-rays; and
    • any other requested documents.
  • A security clearance and a criminal background check; and
  • In some cases, an interview. 

It is important to note that some denied employment visa applications may be appealed. This will likely require the assistance of an attorney in order to understand the appeals process and complete the appeal in a timely and proper manner.

What is Sponsorship for Employment Visa Status?

The majority of employment visa arrangements require that the United States citizen employer sponsor or petition for the foreign national to work in the United States. The sponsoring employer will be required to provide proof that:

  • That particular worker is necessary to fill a job position;
  • That job position cannot be filled by a local United States citizen; and
  • The employer has conducted research to confirm that the foreign employee needs to travel to the United States to work with them.

Sponsorship for an employment visa also requires that the employee remain employed with their sponsor for the duration of their stay in the United States. Some employers use a L-1 intracompany transfer related to the employment visa sponsorship. Under these visas, the employer petitions a foreign worker who is already employed with the company, but works in a different country.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with Employment Visas?

It is essential to have the help of an experienced immigration lawyer for any employment visa issues you may have. Employment visas assist in providing employers and employees with more work options for their companies. 

If you or someone you know needs assistance with an employment visa sponsorship, they should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Any errors made during the application process may lead to delays or even a rejection of the application. A lawyer can assist you with the application process and ensure your application is accurate and complete and filed in a timely manner.