The United States continues to be one of the most attractive countries for immigrants and international students, and many look for work opportunities as they move. However, the only way you are legally allowed to work in the USA when you are not a citizen or permanent resident is to obtain a USA Work Visa. The work visa allows you to work for a predetermined period of time, and different types of visas have certain restrictions and requirements. Whether you're an international student thinking about working the USA, or are a foreigner interested in applying for a work visa, you will need to know what the rules and regulations are for your specific situation.
What is a USA Work Visa?
If you want to legally work in the USA, you will need to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or hold a USA work visa. The United States Immigration and Nationality Act grants a minimum of 140,000 employment-based immigration visas to individuals that meet certain criteria, and these visas allow you to work on a part-time or full-time basis under certain conditions. If you apply for and work at a job without a work visa or permit, you may be fined heavily and deported immediately.
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Types of Visas that Allow You to Work in the USA
There are several different types of visas available to immigrants and non-citizens of the United States. Each visa application is different, and you will need to provide extensive documentation about your background, birth certificate and other supporting documents before the visa can be granted. Anyone that wishes to work in the USA will need to go through this process, and may consider hiring a lawyer to do so.
The types of visas that allow you to work in the USA include:
Employment Based First Preference (E1)
Employment Based Second Preference (E2)
Employment Based Third Preference (E3)
Employment Based Fourth Preference (E4)
Employment Based Fifth Preference (E5)
F1 Student Visa
J1 Student Visa
M1 Student Visa
TN1 Visa (for Canadian immigrants)
E1 through E5 visas are granted to individuals that have filed an Immigrant Petition for Foreign worker document, and have either received a job offer for a position in the United States, or are a working professional with exceptional abilities and an approved labor certification from the Department of Labor. Other stipulations for these visas apply, and these work visas are not typically granted to international students. All of the stipulations and requirements of the Employment-Based visas can be reviewed on the Travel.state.gov website http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1323.html#first.
H1B, J1 Exchange, L-1 and TN1 visas are typically granted to non-student foreigners who wish to work in the USA for a certain period of time.
Getting a USA Work Visa as an International Student
If you want to get a work visa as an international student, you will be eligible for an F1 Visa, J1 Student Visa, or an M1 Student Visa.
About the F1 Student Visa:
The F1 Visa is granted to international students who are attending an academic program at an accredited college or university in the United States. You will need to maintain full-time student status in order to qualify for this visa, and you are allowed to stay in the U.S. for up to 60 days after graduation from your degree program. As an F1 visa holder, you are allowed to work 20 hours or less per week at a job on campus, and must report your working hours to your university on a regular basis. You are also eligible to complete practical training in your field of study for 12 months after graduation, at which point you are allowed to work on a full-time basis in your industry.
About the J1 Student Visa:
The J1 Student Visa is granted to students who need to acquire practical training in a field that is unavailable in their home country. They must find a sponsor who can provide them with the training, and they can enter the United States through the Exchange Visitor Program. If you are granted this visa, you will need to work with your employer to go through the sponsorship process.
About the M1 Student Visa:
The M-1 Visa does not permit you to work in the USA, but does allow you to enter the country legally and pursue an education. M-1 visas are granted to individuals attending a technical or vocational program, and you will need to provide proof that you can support yourself without having to work in the USA.
It is generally a good idea to speak with your international student advisor at the college or university you are attending to clarify all the rules and stipulations about working the USA with your particular visa status.
Working in the USA as a Foreigner (non-student)
If you are interested in applying for a work visa in the USA as a non-student immigrant, you will need to find an employer to sponsor you for the length of your employment contract, and must work only a set number of hours based on the type of visa granted to you. Your eligibility will be based on the Employment Based visa requirements as outlined by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consumer Affairs.
About the H1B Visa:
This visa allows you to work in the USA for up to six years as a non-immigrant. You are permitted to enter the United States with this visa, but must show proof of a sponsoring company before you move.
About the J1 Exchange Visitor Visa:
This visa is granted to both students and non-students interested in participating in the Exchange Visitor Program. This allows you to legally work or train in your field during the length of your stay, but you must take a job in the private sector as an alien physician, au pair, camp counselor, secondary school student, teacher, or flight trainee, or work in the academic and government sectors as an international visitor, government visitor, short term scholar, professor or research scholar, specialist, or attend a student college or university.
About the L-1 Visa:
The L-1 Visa allows companies to transfer certain employees from certain departments overseas to the United States. This type of visa is granted only to managers and executives, or specialized knowledge staff members, and the individual is only allowed to work in the United States for a certain time frame.
About the TN1 Visa:
The TN1 Visa is granted to Canadian citizens who are given preferential treatment for entry into the United States through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The TN1 Visa is granted for one year but can be renewed indefinitely. It is usually granted immediately at the Canadian border, and is one of the most efficient ways for a Canadian to enter the United States with the ability to work (as long as they are working for a specific employer).
USA Work Visa: Resources
Here are some important resources to review when you are considering applying for a USA work visa, or are seeking USA work opportunities: U.S. Department of State: Visa Services http://travel.state.gov/visa/visa_1750.html
H1BVisa.com http://www.h1base.com/ - information about finding sponsors and applying for a USA work visa
Social Security Administration: International Students and Social Security Numbers http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10181.html
United States Immigration Support Services http://www.usimmigrationsupport.org/