Work Visas (H, L, O, P, Q Visas)

The required visa will depend on how long you wish to remain in the United States. If the answer is anything up to six years, a nonimmigrant work visa will be required. If the answer is more than six years an immigrant visa will be required.

If you wish to work in the United States for a temporary period, you will have to apply for a temporary work visa. Work visas are issued for specific positions and require prearranged employment. U.S. law does not contain any provision for informal working holidays.

If you are being transferred by a current employer to a subsidiary company in the U.S., then an intra company transferee (L-1) visa is required if you are an employee of an international company who holds a managerial, executive, or specialist level position and is being transferred into the same level position within the United States company. An L-1 visa is also appropriate if the employee is coming to the United States to establish an office. The employment must be approved in advance by the office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the basis of a Form I-129 petition filed by the U.S company. In the case of a petition to open an office, the petitioner should be from the international company. Any questions you may have concerning this process should be addressed to the USCIS office in the area where the employment will take place.

You will require an exchange visitor (J-1) visa if you are being sponsored by an educational institution, a nonprofit organization, a summer program for students such as BUNAC or Camp America, an au pair program, or are going to work in the U.S as a medical intern or resident at a hospital. The J-1 visa is required by anyone taking up prearranged employment, training or research in the United States under an officially approved program sponsored by an educational or other nonprofit institution. A J-1 visa is also appropriate for participants in summer employment programs, such as Camp America and BUNAC, intern programs for university students and au pair programs. The sponsor of the program will send the visa applicant the form DS-2019. An exchange visitor visa cannot be processed without this form. The first step in applying for the visa is to contact the sponsor to find out whether or not the form is available.

A temporary work (H) visa is required by anyone who is going to the United States to perform a prearranged professional or highly skilled job, or employment which is temporary or seasonal in nature and for which there is a shortage of U.S. workers. The employment must be approved in advance by the office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on the basis of a petition, form I-129, filed by the U.S employer. Any questions you may have concerning this process should be addressed to the USCIS office in the area where the employment will take place.

An H-1 visa is required by anyone coming to the United States to perform services in a prearranged professional job. To qualify, the alien requires a bachelors or higher degree (or equivalent) in the specific specialty for which employment authorization is being sought. It is the responsibility of the office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to determine whether the employment constitutes a specialty occupation and whether the alien is qualified to perform the services.

The employment must be approved in advance by the USCIS in the United States on the basis of a Form I-129 petition, filed by the United States employer. Before filing the Form I-129 petition, with the USCIS Service Center having jurisdiction over the area where the employment will take place, the employer is required to file a labor condition application with the Department of Labor concerning the terms and conditions of the contract of employment.

The holder of an H-1B/H-2B/H-3 visa may enter the United States up to 10 days before the employment is authorized to begin as indicated on the notice of action, form I-797A/B.

The validity period of the petition is reflected on the Notice of Action, form I-797, which is sent to the petitioner.

An intra company transferee (L-1) visa is required by an employee of an international company who is being transferred to a parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the company in the United States. To qualify, the employee must be at the managerial or executive level, or have specialized knowledge and is being transferred into the same level position within the United States company. An L-1 visa is also appropriate for an employee who is coming to the United States to establish a parent, branch, affiliate or subsidiary in the United States. To qualify, the alien must be at the executive or managerial level, or have specialized knowledge and demonstrate that the company has secured sufficient physical premises to house the new office. The U.S. company is required to file a Form I-129 petition, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Center (USCIS) having jurisdiction over the area of intended employment. In the case of a petition to open an office, the petitioner is the international company. Any questions you may have concerning this process should be addressed to the appropriate USCIS office.

The holder of a B-1 visa, or a person who has entered the United States in B-1 visa status under the Visa Waiver Program, may survey potential sites in connection with a business venture and/or to lease premises. The holder of a B-1 visa may not remain in the U.S. to manage a business. An appropriate work visa (H, L, or E visa) is required.

You may remain in the United States for the validity period of the petition plus up to ten days at the end of the petition.

Only a natural, step or adopted child under the age of 21 is eligible to derive status from a nonimmigrant visa petition filed on behalf of a parent. If the child is of school age, he/she will be required to apply for a student visa.

If the marriage creating the relationship of stepparent and child occurred before the child’s eighteenth birthday, he/she may apply for a derivative visa. When applying for the visa you should include with the application a copy of your marriage certificate establishing the stepparent/child relationship.

You may remain in the United States for the validity period of the petition plus up to ten days at the end of the petition.

If you are all amateurs and will perform in a social and/or charitable context, you will require B-2 visas, or if eligible may travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program. However, if you will be performing to a paying audience, you require P visas. If you are professional musicians, or the group includes a mixture of profession and amateur musicians, you will require P visas.

Unless the company is participating in a cultural program sponsored by the sending country; or participating in a competition for which there is no remuneration, other than a prize (monetary or otherwise) and expenses, O or P visas are required.

A B-1 visa, or visa free travel is appropriate if you will utilize recording facilities for recording purposes only; the recording will be distributed and sold only outside the United States; and, there will be no public performances.

You may remain in the United States for the validity period of the petition. The total stay in the United States may not exceed 15 months.

The spouse and children under the age of 21 of the beneficiary of an H/L/O/P visa may apply for derivative status. U.S. visa law does not recognize common-law marriages. A common-law spouse may not apply for a derivative visa. He/she will be required to apply for a visitor visa or work visa if seeking employment.

You and your partner should apply for the visas together. Your partner is required to furnish evidence to show that he/she has sufficient funds to cover all expenses while in the United States. He/she is also required to furnish evidence of a residence abroad to which he/she intends to return at the end of the stay in the United States together with evidence confirming your relationship, (for example; a copy of a joint mortgage, rental agreement, bank account etc). If you do not apply for the visas at the same time, your partner will be required to furnish a copy of the visa endorsed in your passport.

There is no derivative status for the spouse and children of the holder of a Q Visa. If they or your common-law spouse or other family member wish to accompany you to the U.S., they will be required to qualify for a visa in their own right. School age children require student F-1 visas.

If you are travelling to the United States with the intention of taking up employment you must be in possession of the correct work visa. You cannot travel to the U.S visa free under the Visa Waiver Program and apply for an adjustment of status.

The holder of an H-4 visa is not eligible to work on a derivative visa. If your spouse wishes to work while in the United States, he/she will be required to qualify for a work visa in his/her own right.

As a result of a recent change in the law, spouses of L-1 visa holders may seek employment authorization on derivative L-2 visas. Further information is available from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services after your arrival in the United States.

Only the office of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States can grant employment authorization. The USCIS office having jurisdiction over your area of intended residence in the United States will be able to advise you of procedures. You should contact them for further information after your arrival in the United States.

The recent change in the law allowing spouses of L-1 visa holders to seek employment authorization on derivative L-2 visas does not apply to children of the L-1 holder.