With its critical mass of innovative industries, it’s no surprise the US consistently ranks as a top destination for career-minded expats. Entrepreneurs and professionals from across the globe frequently come here to jumpstart their careers, seeking opportunities in thriving fields like media, technology and health care.
But achieving success in the States takes more than just ambition. To make this journey, virtually all expats must rely on temporary, nonimmigrant employment visas. These employment visas are as broad as the American job market itself, with categories spanning a range of industries and positions.
But with so many pathways to choose from, how do you find the one that makes sense for you? This blog outlines four of the most popular visas used by foreign workers in the US. We’ll run through the basics of each visa, explaining how they function and which type of professionals they’re intended for. Let’s start!
(Note that most of these visas require a job offer from a US employer. Once you’ve got an offer lined up, you can then start exploring visa options.)
- H-1B: First introduced in the 1960s, the H-1B visa is intended for highly skilled workers who hold a bachelor’s degree (or higher) in a specialty occupation. Eligible professions include everything from architecture and accounting to graphic design and fashion. But the H-1B is perhaps best known for its popularity as a hiring tool at American tech companies, who rely on the visa to recruit first-class engineers, developers and other talent from overseas. If you have a strong technology background and are aiming to work at a US enterprise or startup, this might be the visa for you.
- O-1: The O-1 is a versatile visa geared towards professionals who demonstrate “extraordinary ability” in business, science or the arts. Historically, it’s been a standby for actors, musicians and other entertainment pros. But that doesn’t mean you have to be an artist in order to qualify – the O-1 has also been used successfully by those with more corporate backgrounds, including brand directors, marketers and more. O-1s are valid for up to three years, and can be renewed indefinitely.
- L-1: Is your company looking to expand to the States? Then you may want to explore the L-1. This visa enables foreign companies to send an employee to the US in order to open a new office or affiliate. To qualify, the L-1 visa holder must have worked for at least one year as a manager or executive at the company in question. The applicant and their employer must also prove that they’ve secured adequate space to house the new office.
Alternately, you might have received a promotion that requires you to relocate to the US. In this case, you could also qualify for an L-1 visa. In this scenario, a US-based company can use an L-1 visa to transfer a foreign employee to one of their US locations. L-1 recipients can work in the US for a minimum of one year, with the possibility of extending their stay to a maximum of seven years.
- Green Card/Permanent Residency: Maybe you already have a few temporary visas under your belt, but are hoping to plant deeper roots in the US. In that case, you could be a strong candidate for an employment-based green card, either through an offer of employment, or on the basis of extraordinary ability.
The green card allows you to permanently live and work in the US, opening the door for more long-term career opportunities. Applicants must either have a job offer from a US company, or possess an exceptional level of achievement in their field, a status typically demonstrated through high salaries, major awards, original publications and other significant accomplishments. If you’re a veteran in your industry, and have an impressive track record illustrating your success, then you should seriously consider the extraordinary ability green card as an immigration option.
Ready for the next stage in your immigration journey? Then it might be time to enlist the help of an experienced immigration attorney. An effective attorney will help you prepare a successful application and keep you organized as you make your way through the process. Armed with these insights, you’ll be one step closer to realizing your dream of working in the US.
To start exploring your options, contact D’Alessio Law Group, a full-service immigration and corporate law firm based in Los Angeles.