Temporary Work Visas (H)
Anyone going to the United States with the intention of working there temporarily requires a nonimmigrant work visa. Persons entering the United States on a visitor or business visa, or under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are not permitted to work.
Unlike some countries, the United States government does not issue work visas for casual employment. In general, work visas are based on a specific offer of employment.
H-1B visa (specialty occupation) is required by an employee who is coming to the United States to perform services in a prearranged professional job. To qualify, the alien requires a bachelor’s or higher degree (or equivalent) in the specific specialty for which employment authorization is being sought. It is the responsibility of the USCIS to determine whether the employment constitutes a specialty occupation and whether the alien is qualified to perform the services. Before filing the petition, form I-129H, with the USCIS Service Center, the employer is required file a labor condition application with the Department of Labor concerning the terms and conditions of the contract of employment.
H-2B visa (skilled and unskilled worker) is required by an employee who is coming to the United States to perform a job which is temporary or seasonal in nature and for which there is a shortage of U.S. workers. Before filing the petition form I-129H, with the USCIS Service Center, the employer is required to obtain from the Department of Labor, a labor certification confirming that there are no qualified U.S. workers eligible for the employment on which the petition is based.
H-3 (trainee) is required by a trainee who is coming to the United States to receive training from an employer in any field of endeavor, other than graduate education or training. The training cannot be used to provide productive employment and cannot be available in the individual’s home country. The employer is required to file a petition, form I-129H, with the USCIS Service Center to gain approval for the training.
Filing a petition with USCIS
The employment must be approved in advance by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States on the basis of a petition, form I-129, filed by the employer with the USCIS Service Center. Any questions which you may have concerning this process should be addressed to the appropriate USCIS office in the United States.
Applying for the Visa
If a petition has been approved in your name, you will be required to apply for a visa before traveling to the United States. The Notice of Action, form I-797A, B or C, is not valid for travel unless accompanied by the appropriate visa. Please review the following following FOUR STEPS below before beginning your visa application.
Step 1: If you have ever arrested and/or have a criminal conviction, have a medical ineligibility, or have been denied entry into or deported from the United States you will be required to furnish documents relating to your situation in support of your application. Please click on the relevant links for further information.
Step 2: Click on "How to Apply" on the left-hand Navigation bar for information on method of application.
Step 3: Complete the online DS-160
Reminder: We always recommend that individuals apply for visas well in advance of their proposed date of travel. No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore, final travel plans or the purchase of non refundable ticket should not be made until a visa has been issued and you are in receipt of the passport.
Spouses, Children & Partners
Spouses and/or children under the age of 21 who wish to accompany or join the principal visa holder in the United States for the duration of his/her stay require derivative H-4 visas. The application procedure is the same; the I-797A or B covers dependents. Spouses and/or children who do not intend to reside in the United States with the principal visa holder, but visit for vacations only, may be eligible to apply for visitor (B-2) visas, or if qualified, travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
More information for partners and common-law spouses.
H-4 verses F-1
There is no requirement that the spouse and/or children of an H-1 visa holder apply for a student (F-1) visa if they wish to study in the U.S.; they may study on an H-4 visa. However, if they are qualified, they may apply for the F-1 visa. If you have school age children, you should refer to the regulations governing the issuance of F-1 visas.
Working on an H-4 visa
The holder of an H-4 visa may not work on a derivative visa. If he or she is seeking employment, the appropriate work visa will be required.
Legal Rights & Protections
The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 relates to the legal rights of employment-based nonimmigrants (A-3, G-5, NATO-7, H, J, & B-1 domestic employees) under Federal immigration, labor, and employment laws. As a temporary visitor to the United States, it is important that you are aware of your rights, as well as protections and resources available when you come to work or study there. We ask therefore, that you review this information before attending your visa interview (PDF - 253kb).
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