E-1 VISA - Treaty Trader
US immigration policy supports investors and foreign commerce in a variety of ways. The E-1 visa is issued to individuals known as “treaty traders.” A treaty trader must be a national of a country with whom the US maintains either a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation or a Free Trade Agreement that contains E-1 provisions.
The E-1 applicant must be coming to the US to carry on substantial trade, or to develop and direct the operations of a business in which they have invested, or in which they will soon invest, a substantial amount of capital. The trade must be international in scope and conducted principally between the US and the E-1 applicant’s country of citizenship. In addition to the investor himself, key employees (executive, manager, or one whose services are “essential to the efficient operation of the enterprise”) are also eligible for the E-1 visa. An E-1 visa may be granted initially for up to two years and extended in two-year increments. Spouses and children of E-1 visa holders may accompany the treaty trader and are eligible for employment authorization. The grant of an E-1 visa will not lead to lawful permanent resident status.
E-2 VISA - Treaty Investor
A treaty investor is a national of a country with whom the US maintains a Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, Bilateral Investment Treaty, or Free Trade Agreement that contains E-2 provisions. The treaty investor must demonstrate that they have a substantial investment or will direct the operations of a business in which the E-2 visa holder has invested or will soon invest. The E-2 visa may be granted initially for up to two years and extended in two-year increments. Spouses and children of E-2 visa holders may accompany the treaty trader and are eligible for employment authorization. The grant of an E-2 visa will not lead to lawful permanent resident status.
H-1B VISA - Specialty Occupations
The H-1B visa allows foreign workers in “specialty occupations” to work in the US in a variety of jobs including architecture, engineering, modeling, and health and medicine. Because demand for these visas regularly the annual quota, most H-1B holders must process through the H-1B lottery. The H-1B visa offers a wide range of employment possibilities and is often the first step toward obtaining a green card. In order to qualify for an H-1B visa, you must possess practical application of specialized knowledge and a US bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent) or higher. Further, the job must require a US bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent). You may not self-petition; a sponsoring employer must petition for you. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 of an H-1B visa holder are allowed to accompany you as H-4 dependents. They are not, however, authorized for employment unless they fall under particular exceptions.
H-4 dependents, may though, attend school without obtaining a student visa.
H1-B1 VISA - Specialty Occupations from Specific Countries
The H1-B1 visa is similar to the H-1B and is limited to citizens of Chile and Singapore. To qualify for an H1-B1 visa, you must have practical application of specialized knowledge and a US bachelor’s degree (or its foreign equivalent), and the job sought must require a US bachelor’s degree (or its foreign equivalent). You may not self-petition; a sponsoring employer must petition for you. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 of an H1-B1 visa holder are allowed to accompany you as H-4 dependents. They are not, however, authorized for employment unless they fall under particular exceptions. H-4 dependents, may though, attend school without obtaining a student visa.
L-1 VISA - Intra-Company Transfers
Businesses that function both in the US and abroad benefit from the ability to transfer executives, managers, or employees with specialized knowledge from one country to the other. International businesses and organizations with qualifying offices in the US may temporarily transfer employees to their US office. This visa is also known as an “intra-company transferee” visa. To receive an L-1 visa, the foreign national must have worked for the foreign company for at least one full year within the last three years prior to applying as an executive, manager, or employee with specialized knowledge.
Executives and managers are classified as L-1A.
Personnel with specialized knowledge are classified as L1-B.
The maximum period of authorized stay in the US is seven years for an L-1A and five years for an L-1B. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old may join the L-1 visa holder in the US in L-2 status. L-2 status spouses are eligible for work authorization.
O-1 VISA - Extraordinary Ability
An O-1 visa is designated for people with extraordinary ability in a wide spectrum of fields including the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, motion picture or TV industries. An O-1 applicant may not self-petition. A US employer or agent must submit the petition. A spouse and unmarried children under 21 may join the O-1 visa holder in the US under O-3 status, but they are not authorized to work unless they independently qualify for an employment-based visa. To qualify for an O-1 visa, you must prove that you possess “a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who have arisen to the very top of the field of endeavor."
O-2 VISA - Support Personnel in Athletics and Entertainment
Personnel supporting an O-1 visa applicant are eligible for an O-2 visa. Like the O-1, a US employer or agent must petition for the O-2. A spouse and unmarried children under 21 are permitted to join in the US under O-3 status, but they are not authorized to work unless they independently qualify for an employment-based visa. The maximum period of authorized stay in O status is three years.
P-1 VISA - Athletes and Entertainers
Artists and athletes are essential to healthy cultural exchange. The global community benefits greatly from the work of each country’s greatest thinkers and performers. P-1 visas are issued to “internationally recognized” entertainers and athletes who wish to work/compete in the US. “Internationally recognized” means “a high level of achievement …evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent such achievement is renowned, leading or well-known in more than one country.” Internationally recognized athletes may apply for a P-1 visa in order to compete in the US, either as individuals or as members of an internationally recognized athletic team. Internationally recognized entertainment groups can obtain P-1 status as a unit. However, individual entertainers within these groups cannot apply for separate visas.
P-2 VISA - Troupes and Bands
P-2 visas are issued to bands and groups entering the US as part of an exchange program. The US labor group that negotiated the exchange agreement, the sponsoring organization or the US employer must file the petition.
P-3 VISA - Culturally Unique Artists and Entertainers
The P-3 visa allows “culturally unique” artists and entertainers to travel to the US for temporary positions as performers, teachers or coaches.
R-1 VISA - Religious Workers
The R-1 visa allows religious workers to temporarily enter the US for employment in their religious vocation. Ministers, nuns, monks, and teachers affiliated with a particular religion are examples of religious workers.
An R-1 applicant must demonstrate that they belonged to the religious organization for at least two years preceding the visa petition.
TN Visa - NAFTA
Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), certain citizens of Canada and Mexico are eligible to enter the US to work temporarily with non-immigrant TN status.
To obtain a TN visa, you must:
Be employed in a profession included in the NAFTA list of eligible professions;
Possess the necessary training/licensing for that profession; and
Work for the petitioning US employer in a qualifying position.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 are eligible to enter the US in TN-1 and TN-2 status. Family members may attend school in the US, but they are not allowed to work.
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It is not intended to serve as legal advice.