Eligibility to Work in the United States
The United States government offers a number of work visas, enabling foreign-born nationals to legally enter and work in the U.S. These visas are non-immigrant visas, meaning they are issued for a specific period of time, but most work visas can be renewed, enabling the worker to remain in the U.S. for a longer period of time. Each work visa imposes different requirements on the applicant, and there are work visas available for a variety of jobs.
Work visas include the H-1B and H-2 Work Visas, the H-3 Trainee Work Visa, the O-1 Extraordinary Ability Work Visa, the P Athlete/Entertainer Work Visa, the E-1 Treaty Trader Work Visa, the E-2 Treaty Investor Work Visa, and the R-1 Religious Work Visa. Additionally, students in the U.S. on a student visa may be authorized to work on Curricular Practical Training or Optional Practical Training. Citizens of Mexico or Canada may qualify for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Work Visa, provided the applicant meets all of the requirements and his or her profession is on the NAFTA list.
The most common work visas are the H-1B Work Visa for Persons in Specialty Occupations, the H-2AWork Visa for Seasonal Agricultural Workers, and the H-2B Work Visa for Temporary or Seasonal Non-Agricultural Workers.
The H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa can be issued to workers in positions which require the theoretical and practical application of highly specialized knowledge requiring completion of a specific course of higher education. This visa can also apply to other professionals, including fashion models, those working on government-to-government research and development, and those working on projects administered by the Department of Defense.
H-2A Seasonal Agricultural Visas allow U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals into the country to perform temporary agricultural jobs for which U.S. workers are not available. In addition to demonstrating that U.S. workers are not available, employers must also show that employment of these workers will not have adverse effects on the working conditions and wages of similarly employed U.S. workers.
The H-2B Seasonal Non-Agricultural Visa is similar to the H-1B in that the employer must show that the employment is temporary, that there are insufficient U.S. workers to perform the job, and that there will be no adverse effects on U.S. workers. The H-2B differs, however, in that there is a statutory maximum, or cap, on the total number of aliens who may be granted the H-2B visa in any given fiscal year. Once that cap has been reached, visa petitions may only be accepted for H-2B workers who are exempt from the cap.
Once granted a work visa, the holder is entitled to obtain a drivers license or state-issued ID in the United States, open bank and credit accounts, and travel in and out of the U.S. A visa holder’s spouse and children may be granted visas, as well, but they will not be permitted to work in the United States. When in the U.S. on a work visa, the foreign national retains his or her passport, and is only issued a United States passport upon naturalization as a U.S. citizen.