Two Types of Business-Related Visas

Business-related visas allow foreign nationals to enter and work in the United States for specific business purposes. These visas fall into two main categories: temporary work visas (nonimmigrant visas) and employment-based permanent residency visas (immigrant visas). 

Temporary Work Visas (Nonimmigrant Visas)

Temporary work visas allow foreign workers to stay in the U.S. for a limited period. Employers sponsor these visas to fill positions with skilled workers or professionals. These visas often require the employer to demonstrate that they cannot find a qualified U.S. worker to fill the position. The U.S. typically issues temporary work visas for a set period, after which the worker must either leave the U.S., request an extension, or apply for a different type of visa.

Employment-Based Permanent Residency Visas (Immigrant Visas)

Employment-based permanent residency visas, also known as green cards, allow foreign nationals to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely. These visas are divided into several preference categories based on the applicant’s qualifications and job role. Obtaining an employment-based permanent residency visa typically requires a job offer from a U.S. employer and a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. 

Temporary Business Visas

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Many kinds of temporary worker visas are available in the U.S., each tailored to specific needs and job roles. These visas cater to diverse professions, from highly specialized roles in technology and healthcare to those in international business and agriculture. Each visa type has its own set of eligibility criteria, application processes, and limitations on the duration of stay.

CW: Transitional Worker

The CW-1 visa classification allows employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) to hire foreign workers who are ineligible under other nonimmigrant worker categories. 

You must meet several criteria to qualify for a CW-1 visa. Specifically, you must be ineligible for other employment-based visas, plan to work in a job requiring nonimmigrant workers, and have a legitimate employer in the CNMI. You must also be lawfully present in the CNMI and admissible to the U.S. 

The CW-1 visa has a cap on the number issued each year. It generally lasts up to one year, with extensions up to three years. After three years, you must leave the U.S. for 30 days before you can file a new petition.

E-1:Treaty Trader

The E-1 treaty trader visa allows nationals of treaty countries to enter the U.S. to engage in substantial trade. To qualify, you must be from a country with a trade treaty with the U.S. and work for a business that is at least 50 percent owned by nationals of that treaty country. The trade must be significant, with more than half occurring between the U.S. and the treaty country.

If you are not the primary treaty trader, you must work in a supervisory or executive role or possess specialized skills essential to the business. This means you must have expertise critical for the company’s operation, such as unique skills or knowledge that are not easily found in the U.S. market.

The initial stay for E-1 visa holders is up to two years, with the possibility of extensions in additional two-year increments. There is no limit on the number of extensions, but you must always intend to leave the U.S. when your status expires. If you travel outside the U.S., you can receive an automatic two-year readmission period upon return. 

E-2: Treaty Investor

The E-2 treaty investor visa allows nationals from treaty countries to enter the U.S. to invest in and manage substantial business ventures. To qualify, you must be from a country with a commerce treaty with the U.S. The business in the U.S. must be at least 50 percent owned by nationals of the treaty country, and the investment must be significant enough to ensure the business’s success. This investment cannot simply be uncommitted funds in a bank account—it must involve active investment in a real and operational commercial enterprise.

The enterprise should generate income beyond just providing enough for you and your family to live on, or it must have a significant economic impact. As the principal investor, you must come to the U.S. to develop and direct the business. If you are not the principal investor, you must have executive, supervisory, or essential specialized skills crucial to the company.

Similar to the E-1 visa, the initial stay for E-2 visa holders is up to two years, with the possibility of unlimited two-year extensions. Traveling outside the U.S. can result in an automatic two-year readmission period upon return.

H-1: Specialty Occupation

The H-1B visa classification is for those who wish to work in specialty occupations, engage in Department of Defense (DOD) research and development projects, or work as fashion models. H-1B visa holders with specialty occupations or working as fashion models can stay in the U.S. for up to three years, with the possibility of extensions up to a total of six years.

H-1B Specialty Occupation

To qualify for an H-1B visa under a specialty occupation, you must have a job requiring the application of highly specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or higher in the field. Your position must meet one of several criteria, such as typically requiring a bachelor’s degree for entry or being unique or complex enough to necessitate such a degree.

To qualify, you must hold a U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher in the required field or a foreign degree equivalent to a U.S. degree and have a relevant unrestricted state license. Alternatively, you could qualify if you have equivalent education and experience with recognition of your expertise in progressively responsible positions related to the specialty field.

H-1B2: DOD Research and Development Project Worker

This category is for those working on DOD cooperative research and development projects. The job must require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. Applicants must provide verification letters from DOD project managers, general descriptions of their duties, employment dates, and information on other noncitizens employed on the project.

H-1B3: Fashion Model

To qualify for an H1-B visa as a fashion model, you must be recognized for distinguished merit and ability as a model. Additionally, the position for which you are seeking a visa must require a prominent fashion model.

H-2: Seasonal Worker

The H-2 visa program includes two classifications: H-2A for temporary agricultural workers and H-2B for temporary non-agricultural workers. Both H-2A and H-2B visas are granted for the period specified in the temporary labor certification, generally up to one year. These can be extended in one-year increments, up to a maximum of three years. After three years, H-2 workers must leave the U.S. for three uninterrupted months before they can seek readmission. 

H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker

The H-2A program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals into the country to fill temporary agricultural jobs. To qualify, you must have a temporary or seasonal job. Employers must prove there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the work. They must also show that hiring H-2A workers will not negatively impact the wages or working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers. 

H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker

The H-2B program allows U.S. employers to hire foreign nationals for temporary non-agricultural jobs. To qualify, employers must demonstrate that there are insufficient U.S. workers to fill the positions and that employing H-2B workers will not harm the wages or working conditions of U.S. workers. The employer’s need for workers must be temporary, which can be due to a one-time occurrence, seasonal need, peak load need, or intermittent need. The H-2B visa has a cap of 66,000 visas per fiscal year, with a 33,000 cap for each half of the fiscal year.

I: Foreign Media

The I visa is for representatives of foreign media, such as reporters, film crews, radio announcers, and editors, who come to the United States to work in their profession. You must represent a foreign information media outlet with a home office in a foreign country to qualify. You must also prove that your activities are essential to your organization’s functions.

When you arrive at the U.S. port of entry, you must present a Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, stating your intended period of stay. If admitted, you can stay for the duration of your employment with the same employer in the same medium. If you wish to stay beyond the specified end date on your Form I-94, you must file Form I-539 to extend your stay. As of May 11, 2020, representatives from the People’s Republic of China (except those from Hong Kong and Macau SAR) have a maximum stay limit of 90 days.

J: Educational and Cultural Exchange Visitor

The J-1 visa classification is for individuals participating in approved educational and cultural exchange programs in the United States. These programs can involve teaching, studying, researching, consulting, training, or participating in graduate medical education. Examples of J-1 visa holders include professors, research assistants, students, trainees, teachers, specialists, au pairs, and camp counselors.

The length of stay for J-1 exchange visitors varies based on the specific program. For example, secondary school students can stay for one semester to one academic year, while college students can stay for the duration of their academic programs, up to 18 months (36 months for postdoctoral students). Teachers can stay for up to three years, with possible extensions. Professors and research scholars may remain for up to five years, with potential extensions for those in certain programs. Each category has specific rules, ensuring participants complete their study programs and cultural exchange experiences within the designated time frames.

L: Intracompany Transferee

The L-1 visa classification allows U.S. employers to transfer executives, managers, or employees with specialized knowledge from foreign offices to their U.S. offices. There are two types: L-1A for executives and managers and L-1B for employees with specialized knowledge.

L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager

To be eligible, the U.S. employer must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company, such as a parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate. The employer must be doing business in the U.S. and at least one other country during the employee’s stay. The employee must have worked for the qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the past three years and seek to enter the U.S. to work in an executive or managerial role. L-1A employees establishing new offices can stay for one year initially, while others can stay for up to three years, with extensions available for up to seven years.

L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge

The L-1B visa allows the transfer of employees with specialized knowledge related to an organization’s products, services, research, or other interests. As with the L-1A, the employer must have a relationship with a foreign company and conduct business in the U.S. and at least one other country to qualify. Employees must have worked for the qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the past three years and be entering the U.S. to apply their specialized knowledge. L-1B employees can stay for one year if establishing a new office and up to three years otherwise, with extensions available for up to five years.

O: Extraordinary Ability

The O-1 visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics or a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. It is divided into two categories: O-1A and O-1B. 

The O-1A visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics. The O-1B visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must show extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim and must be coming to the U.S. to continue work in your area of extraordinary ability.

A related visa, the O-2 visa, is available for those who assist O-1 artists or athletes. To qualify, you must provide assistance integral to the O-1 visa holder’s performance and have critical skills and experience that a U.S. worker cannot readily provide.

O-1 and O-2 visa holders can initially stay in the U.S. for up to three years, with possible extensions in one-year increments as needed.

P: Athlete/Artist

The P visa category encompasses various classifications for athletes and artists coming to the United States for specific events, performances, or competitions. These visas allow individuals and groups recognized internationally for their skills to work temporarily in the U.S.

P-1A: Athletes

The P-1A visa is for athletes coming to the U.S. to perform at specific athletic competitions. This includes individual athletes and members of teams recognized internationally for their performance. Professional athletes, as well as athletes and coaches from U.S. teams that are part of foreign leagues, also qualify. Individual athletes can stay for as long as it takes to complete their event, up to five years, while athletic groups can stay up to one year.

P-1B: Entertainment Group Members

The P-1B visa applies to members of internationally recognized entertainment groups. The group must have been established for at least one year and be acclaimed in its discipline for a substantial period. The initial period of stay for P-1B visa holders is the time necessary to complete the event, competition, or performance, not exceeding one year.

P-2: Reciprocal Exchange Program Performers

The P-2 visa is for artists or entertainers performing under a reciprocal exchange program between organizations in the U.S. and another country. P-2 performers must have skills comparable to those of U.S. participants in programs outside of the U.S. P-2 visa holders can stay for the time necessary to complete their performances, up to one year.

P-3: Culturally Unique Artists or Entertainers

The P-3 visa is for artists or entertainers who perform, teach, or coach as part of culturally unique programs. This includes ethnic, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical, or artistic performances that promote understanding and development of the art form. These programs can be commercial or non-commercial. The initial period of stay for these visas is the time necessary to complete the event or performance, up to one year.

Q: Cultural Exchange

The Q visa classification is for participants in international cultural exchange programs designated by the Department of Homeland Security. The Q-1 nonimmigrant visa allows individuals to share their home country’s history, culture, and traditions in the United States while receiving practical training and employment.

To qualify for the Q-1 visa, you must be at least 18 years old. You must also be capable of performing the service, labor, or training required by the program and of effectively communicating your country’s cultural attributes to the American public.

The initial period of stay for a Q-1 visa holder is up to 15 months. Before reapplying for a Q-1 visa, you must spend one year outside the United States.

R: Religious Worker

The R-1 visa classification allows ministers and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations to come to the U.S. temporarily to perform religious work. This visa is available for those working part-time or full-time, with an average of at least 20 hours per week.

To qualify for an R-1 visa, you must work for one of the following types of organizations:

  • A non-profit religious organization in the United States
  • A religious organization authorized to use a group tax exemption
  • A non-profit organization affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States

Additionally, you must have been a member of a religious denomination with a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the U.S. for at least two years before filing the petition.

The initial period of stay for an R-1 visa holder is up to 30 months, with the possibility of extensions for an additional 30 months. The maximum total stay for R-1 visa holders is five years (60 months), with only the time spent physically in the U.S. counting toward this period.

TN: NAFTA Professional from Mexico or Canada

The TN visa classification, created under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), allows qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to enter the United States temporarily to engage in professional business activities. This visa facilitates economic and trade relationships between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico by enabling professionals from these countries to work in the U.S. The initial period of stay for TN professionals is up to three years.

To be eligible for TN status, you must be a Canadian or Mexican citizen, work in a profession that qualifies under NAFTA, and have the necessary qualifications to practice your profession. Eligible professions include accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers. The U.S. position must require a NAFTA professional, and you must have a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer. Self-employment does not qualify. 

Permanent Business Visas

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There are many kinds of permanent business visas available for different types of professionals, investors, and workers. These visas enable foreign nationals to live and work in the U.S. permanently to contribute to the country’s economy and workforce.

EB-1: Extraordinary Ability/Outstanding Professor or Researcher

The EB-1 visa is a first-preference employment-based visa for individuals with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors or researchers, and certain multinational executives or managers. This visa category is highly sought-after due to its priority status, streamlined process for highly qualified applicants, and path to permanent residency.

To qualify under the extraordinary ability category, you must demonstrate extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics with sustained national or international acclaim. This requires substantial evidence of your achievements and recognition in your field.

For outstanding professors and researchers, you must show international recognition for your outstanding achievements in a specific academic field. You need at least three years of experience in teaching or research in that area and must be entering the U.S. for a tenure or tenure-track teaching position or a comparable research role.

The multinational manager or executive category requires that you have a U.S. employer with a qualifying relationship with a foreign entity that has been doing business for at least one year. They must intend to employ you in a managerial or executive capacity.

EB-2: Exceptional Ability/Professional with Advanced Degrees

The EB-2 visa is a second-preference employment-based visa for individuals with exceptional ability or advanced degrees. This visa category is for highly skilled professionals and those with significant expertise in their fields.

To qualify under the advanced degree category, the job you are applying for must require an advanced degree, and you must possess such a degree or its foreign equivalent. You can also qualify if you have a baccalaureate or foreign equivalent degree plus five years of progressive post-baccalaureate work experience in your field. Additionally, you must meet any other specific requirements listed on the labor certification relevant to the job.

For the exceptional ability category, you must demonstrate exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business. This means showing a level of expertise significantly above the norm in your field. Evidence of exceptional ability can include sustained recognition or substantial contributions to your area of expertise. As with the advanced degree category, you must also meet any specific requirements listed on the labor certification for the job.

EB-3: Skilled Worker/Professional

The EB-3 visa is a third-preference employment-based visa for skilled workers, professionals, and unskilled workers. This category allows various types of workers to apply for permanent residency in the United States if they meet specific criteria.

To qualify as a skilled worker, you must have at least two years of job experience, education, or training that matches the job requirements specified on the labor certification. Relevant post-secondary education can count as training. Additionally, you must perform work for which no qualified workers are available in the U.S.

To qualify as a professional, you need a U.S. baccalaureate degree or a foreign equivalent, which must be the standard requirement for entry into the occupation. You must also perform work for which no qualified workers are available in the U.S. and meet any additional requirements specified on the labor certification. Professionals cannot substitute education and experience for baccalaureate degrees.

To qualify as an unskilled worker, you must demonstrate the ability to perform unskilled labor that requires less than two years of training or experience and is not temporary or seasonal. You must also perform work for which no qualified workers are available in the U.S. As with other categories, you must meet any additional requirements specified on the labor certification.

EB-4: Special Immigrant/Religious Worker

The EB-4 visa is a fourth-preference employment-based visa for special immigrants, including religious workers and those in several other unique categories. This visa provides a pathway to permanent residency for those who meet specific criteria.

Eligible religious workers include ministers and non-ministers in religious vocations and occupations who work for non-profit religious organizations in the U.S. To qualify, you must have been a member of the religious denomination for at least two years before applying.

Other eligible categories for the EB-4 visa include: 

  • Special Immigrant Juveniles
  • Broadcasters
  • Retired officers or employees of G-4 international organizations
  • NATO-6 civilian employees and their family members
  • U.S. government employees abroad and their family members
  • Members of the U.S. armed forces
  • Panama Canal company or Canal Zone government employees
  • Certain physicians licensed and practicing medicine in the U.S. as of January 9, 1978
  • Noncitizens who have provided valuable information about criminal or terrorist organizations (S nonimmigrants)

EB-5: Immigrant Investor

The EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program aims to boost the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors. Investors, their spouses, and unmarried children under 21 can apply for lawful permanent residence through the EB-5 program. 

To qualify for EB-5 visas, investors must make substantial investments in U.S. commercial enterprises and plan to create or preserve at least ten permanent full-time jobs for U.S. workers. The minimum investment amount varies, typically requiring at least $1 million, but this can be reduced to $500,000 if the investment is in a targeted employment area. Targeted employment areas typically include rural areas or those with high unemployment rates.

What Can a Fort Worth Business Immigration Lawyer Do for Your Company?

A Fort Worth business immigration lawyer can provide valuable assistance to your company in managing the U.S. immigration system. They can help you comply with immigration laws and regulations to reduce the risk of costly legal issues. They can also assist you in obtaining various visas for your employees so you can hire and retain top talent from around the world.

Furthermore, business immigration lawyers can aid in developing immigration policies and procedures that align with your company’s goals. They can offer guidance on maintaining proper documentation and staying up-to-date with changes in immigration laws. A business immigration lawyer can also resolve issues with visa denials or delays so your employees can do what they do best without unnecessary interruptions, and your company can focus on growth.

The Secret Behind Zepeda’s Successful U.S. Business Immigration Services

The business immigration team at Zepeda Law Firm has over 35 years of experience in immigration law. Our team’s passion for immigration stems from personal experience. Each member of our team is either an immigrant or first-generation American or has family members who have gone through the immigration process. This deep personal connection drives our commitment to providing exceptional service and understanding our clients’ unique challenges.

We serve clients globally from our offices in Fort Worth and Southlake, Texas. We offer various consultation methods, including phone calls, in-person meetings, and Zoom sessions. We provide free initial consultations so you can explore your options without any upfront cost.

Our firm also provides bilingual representation and translations in Spanish, Nepalese, and Hindi. By choosing Zepeda Law Firm, you gain a dedicated, experienced, and empathetic team committed to guiding you through the intricate process of business immigration.

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The Zepeda law firm is top notch! They are very knowledgeable and helped assist providing excellent guidance and advice. The staff is very friendly and attentive! I’m thankful for this firm and would definitely recommend them to others for immigration needs.
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Dreaming of Living in the U.S.? Our Business Immigration Attorneys Can Help!

Ready to take the next step in your business immigration journey? Contact Zepeda Law Firm today for a free initial consultation. Our experienced team is here to help you understand your options and move forward with confidence.