Specialty Occupations (H-1B) – Up to 65,000 professional employees may receive visas annually to work for U.S. employers. The employer must certify to the government that you will be employed in an occupation for which the minimum entry requirement is a university degree. In addition, the employer must pay you at the average or “prevailing” wage rate for persons in your occupation and geographic location.
Usually, H-1B status will be granted in three-year increments, with a maximum duration of six years. H-1B employees include, but are not limited to, accountants, architects, computer programmers/systems analysts, dentists, engineers, financial analysts, medical technologists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, physical therapists, physicians, researchers, scientists and teachers.
Exchange Visitors (J-1) – The U.S. Information Agency (USIA) permits a wide variety of organizations and universities to sponsor persons as exchange visitors. Some programs allow you to be employed while other programs are for students only. Programs which involve governmental funding, skills enumerated on the USIA’s Exchange Visitors Skills List, or graduate medical training subject you to a two-year foreign residency requirement. This means that upon completion of your program, you are obligated to return to your home country for a minimum of two years.
“The foreign residency requirement may be overcome by (1) obtaining a “no objection” letter from your native country (not available to those pursuing medical residencies or fellowships in the US), (2) showing that your spouse or children who are either US citizens or permanent residents will suffer “exceptional hardship” if you are required to return to your home country for two years, (3) demonstrating that you have a well-founded fear of persecution if you return to your home country (more similar to the asylum requirements); or (4) sponsorship from certain interested governmental agencies. In each of these cases, approval from the USIA and/or the INS is required”. If your Visa is denied, you should hire an appeals lawyer.
Intracompany Transferees (L-1) – If you are an executive, manager or a person with specialized knowledge who is employed by a company abroad, you may transfer to the U.S. branch of the company (or to a parent, affiliate or subsidiary company in the U.S.) to assume a similar position.
To qualify, you must have been employed in a similar position for the foreign-based company during one of the past three years before you entered the U.S. The maximum duration of L-1 status is seven years for executives and managers and five years for persons with specialized knowledge.
Persons of Extraordinary Ability (O) – If you are a person of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business or athletics, you may be granted an O-1 visa. If you are accompanying an O-1 visa holder in an artistic or athletic performance, you may qualify for an O-2 visa.
Athletes and Entertainers (P) – If you are an athlete who has performed individually, or as part of a group or team, at an internationally- recognized level of performance, you may be issued a P-1 visa. P-1 visas are also available to entertainers who perform in a group which has attained international recognition. Artists and entertainers who enter the U.S. under a reciprocal exchange program may be granted P-2 visas while those entering in a culturally unique program may receive P-3 status.
Religious Workers (R-1) – If you are coming to the U.S. as a minister or have a religious vocation or occupation, you may qualify for an R-1 visa. You must have been a member of the religious denomination for the previous two years and be coming to the U.S. to work for a bona fide nonprofit religious organization. The maximum duration for R-1 status is five years.
Family members – In each of the above categories, your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age may accompany you to the U.S. However, as a general rule, family members are not permitted to work in the U.S.