Cultural exchange Visa (Q Visa)
The Q-1 visa classification allows you to come to the United States temporarily to participate in an international cultural exchange program that provides practical training and employment, and shares your country’s history, culture, and traditions.
The Q-1 visa allows you to work, but you have to meet certain criteria. There is also no cap for the Q-1 visa, so if you are able to find a cultural exchange program willing to hire you in the US and you fulfill the eligibility criteria, then you can get the visa.
Only employers who administer cultural exchange programs may petition for Q-1 nonimmigrants. It is an employment-oriented program, but an integral part of your duties must have a cultural element. You must also be at least 18 years of age, be qualified to perform the service, labour, or training, and be able to communicate effectively about the cultural attributes of your country.
The sponsor of employer of the Q-1 visa holder must be a registered business in the US, have an international cultural exchange program in their business, employ international cultural exchange participants to share their culture, have a person who acts as a liaison between the business and USCIS, organizes events to provide cultural exchange information from the participant, is able to compensate the Q-1 visa holder for their services while in the US, and is able to offer an appropriate working condition to the Q-1 visa holder.
The I Visa or Journalist Visa is a work visa for employees in the media, press, and radio sectors who are temporarily in the US for journalistic purposes within the scope of their work.
The I visa is a nonimmigrant visa for the United States specifically for foreign media representatives who wish to temporarily enter and reside in the United States to pursue their profession. The I category officially bears the name “Foreign News Media” and allows temporary assignment in the US for journalistic purposes.
Journalists and correspondents who work for an American media office or a newspaper in Germany, for example, can also travel to the USA with an I visa to report on events from the United States for an audience outside of the US.
The applicant retains their permanent residence outside the US and intends to travel to the US only for a temporary stay. The proof of sufficient financial means to be able to cover the stay in America also plays an important role in the examination of the visa application, especially for the self-employed persons.
In addition, applicants must prove that they work for a foreign media company. On-site activities may be used exclusively for the dissemination of and collection of news or information. This means that the journalistic material may only be of a documentary nature if it is published outside of the United States.
Excluded from the I visa category are persons or companies who produce commercial projects and projects from the entertainment industry. For these activities, an appropriate work visa must be applied for (O, P, or H), which also includes a work permit from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Treaty Traders and Investor Visa
A foreign investor can immigrate to the US permanently or temporarily by applying for either the EB-5, E-2, or L-1 visa.
If you are a foreign investor or business owner who has the means to invest a significant amount of money in a US company and you want to immigrate permanently to the US, you may qualify for the EB-5 investor visa. This permanent visa for the US was created to stimulate the US economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors.
If you are interested in investing in the US economy and want to temporarily live in the US, you might want to look into applying for the E-2 investor visa. You will need to be able to make a substantial investment. An E-2 visa allows you to live and conduct business in the US temporarily without the burden of having to pay US taxes.
The L-1A visa is for employees and investors who work for or own companies outside of the United States that have branches, subsidiaries, affiliates, or joint venture partners in the United States.
The L-1B visa is for employees who have specialized knowledge to work and invest in the US economy. The L1 visas can also be applied to each of the four demographics of an individual, family member, business owner, or investor.
The E-1 Treaty Traders visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals, families, or businesses involved in the exchange, purchase, or sale of goods and services or merchandise on a temporary basis. Nonimmigrant implies a person or persons who are visiting the US temporarily and are not moving to the US permanently.
To be eligible for the E-1 visa, applicants must be an executive, manager, or specialist and a citizen of a treaty nation company operating in the US, or you must own 50% of the company.
An E-1 visa may also cover immediate family, such as a legal spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21; however, children covered under this visa are not permitted to work. The spouse of the visa holder is permitted to work.
The volume of trade carried out between the United States and the designated treaty country must be at least 50%. Trade can be in the form of physical movement of goods, transportation, or non-physical services, including banking and insurance, tourism, technology, or journalism.
You must also be prepared to provide evidence that you intend to return to your home country when your visa expires. Click here for a list of E-1 Treaty Visa countries.
An E-2 Visa, also known as an investor visa, will allow you to live and conduct business in the US temporarily without the burden of having to pay US taxes.
The E-2 visa is for nonimmigrants who are individuals, business owners, or investors who plan to make substantial investments in US businesses and plan to reside in the US on a temporary basis.
To be eligible for the E-2 visa, you must be a national of a country in which the United States maintains a Treaty of Commerce and Navigation with. You must also have invested or be actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide business in the US.
A bona fide business is defined as “a real, active, and operating commercial or entrepreneurial business that produces goods or services for profit,” according to the United States Citizen and Immigration Services.
Certain employees of an E-2 visa holder, as well as family members of the investor or of an employee, may also be eligible for this classification. The employee of a treaty investor must be of the same nationality as the employer/treaty investor, must meet the definition of “employee” under relevant law, and must either be engaging in duties of an executive or supervisory character, or if employed in a lesser capacity, have special qualifications.
Special qualifications are skills which make the employee’s services essential to efficient operation of the business. Some circumstances or qualities that could meet this requirement are the degree of proven expertise in the employee’s area of operations, whether others possess the employee’s specific skills and whether the employee can command a specific salary. Family of E-2 visa holders’ employees of such a person/business may also be eligible for an E-2 visa.
An individual who obtains the E-2 and their employees may bring their unmarried children, aged 21 and under, to the US to live with the visa holder or the employee temporarily, provided these individuals seek approval as E-2 nonimmigrant dependents.
E-2 visa processing times and reasons for refusal.
Temporary Work Visas
Opportunities are largely available for you to work in the United States whether you are looking for professional work, skilled or unskilled work, or work as a performer or an athlete.
The temporary work visas available include the TN Visa for Mexican and Canadian citizens, the L-1 Work Visa for foreign workers in management or executive positions, the E-1 Treaty Trader Work Visa, the H-1B visa for specialty occupations (US Department of Defense and Fashion Models Work Visa), the H-2B for temporary non-agricultural workers, the R-1 for religious workers, and the O-1 for workers with extraordinary abilities.
Additionally, there is the O-1A for workers with extraordinary abilities for science, education, business, and athletics, the O-1B visa for workers with extraordinary abilities in the arts, the O-2 visa for personnel accompanying O-1B worker visa holders, the P-1 worker visa, the P-1A work visa for internationally recognized athletes and sports teams, and the P-1B work visa for members of internationally recognized entertainment groups.
Find out which temporary visa option interests you.
Individuals and families who wish to work temporarily in the US and business owners who want to hire a foreign individual who qualifies as someone with a specialty occupation, a Department of Defense worker, or as a prominent fashion model may qualify for the H-1B, H-1B2, or H-1B3 visas.
Preference for the H-1B visa will be given to individuals with graduate degrees; however, you may be eligible for this visa with a Bachelor’s degree. The job must be complex or unique so that it can only be performed by an individual with a degree. You must hold an unrestricted state license, registration, or certification that authorizes you to fully practice the specialty occupation and be engaged in that specialty in the state where you intend to work.
To qualify for the H-1B2 visa, the cooperative research and development project or a co-production project must be provided for under a government-to-government agreement administered by the US Department of Defense. A bachelor’s degree, Ph.D. or its equivalent is required to perform duties.
To qualify for the H-1B3 visa there must be a modeling position available or modeling services required for which a fashion model of prominence is qualified to perform. To be eligible for this visa category you must be a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability.
You must find a US employer who is willing to sponsor you for the specific job for which you are qualified. The employer must submit a Labour Conditions Approval (LCA), along with Form I-129. Finally, the applicant must complete the application at a US Embassy or Consulate.
Find out more about the processing times and reasons for refusal of the H-1B, H-1B2, and H-1B3 visas.
Agricultural Workers in the US (H-2A Visa)
The H-2A program allows US employers or US agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs. A US employer, a US agent, or an association of US agricultural producers named as a joint employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, on a prospective worker’s behalf.
To qualify for an H-2A nonimmigrant classification, the petitioner must offer a job that is of a temporary nature, demonstrate that there are not enough US workers who are able to do the work, show that employing H-2A workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed US workers, and generally submit a single valid temporary labour certification from the US Department of Labour with the H-2A petition.
H-2A petitions may only be approved for nationals of countries that the secretary of homeland security has designated, with the concurrence of the Office of the Secretary of State, as eligible to participate in the H-2A program.
Non-agricultural Workers in the US (H-2B Visa)
The H-2B visa, also known as a work permit, is for skilled and unskilled individuals coming to the United States for temporary employment that is non-agricultural.
To be eligible for the H2-B visa, applicants must ensure they have a job offer that is temporary and tied to a specific project. The job offer must state that the US employer requires a foreign worker. The employer must file the petition for their employee.
Your employer must apply for a temporary labour certificate. When the certificate is approved, your employer must file a visa petition through Form I-129 and submit it to United States Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS).
To be eligible for the H-2B, you must have a legitimate job offer from an employer. The offer must indicate that the work is seasonal, one-time, intermittent, or peak-load and that the job must be for less than one year. There must be no qualified and willing US workers available for the job. You must also prove that you will return to your home country before the expiration date on your visa.
Processing times for US work visas depend on factors such as the office responsible for processing the file, the type of visa, visa interview wait times, whether the applicant can qualify for an expedited interview appointment, whether expedited processing is available, whether premium processing is available, and if all documents have been provided.
Top 10 reasons for H-2B Visa refusal.
Special Education Visitors (H3 Visa)
The H-3 nonimmigrant visa category allows noncitizens coming temporarily to the United States as either a trainee to receive training in any field of endeavour, or as a special education exchange visitor to participate in a training program that provides practical training and experience in the education of children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.
There is a numerical limit on the number of H-3 special education exchange visitors. No more than 50 may be approved in a fiscal year.
A petition requesting an H-3 special education exchange visitor must be filed by a facility which has professionally trained staff and a structured program for providing education to children with disabilities, and for providing training and hands-on experience to participants in the special education exchange visitor program. It should include a description of the training the noncitizen will receive, the facility’s professional staff, and the noncitizen’s participation in the training program.
In addition, the petition must show that the special education exchange visitor is nearing the complete of a higher degree program in special education, has already earned a higher degree in special education, or has extensive prior training and experiences teaching children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.
In order to obtain H-3 classification, the US employer or organization must file a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. If the petition is approved, the trainee may be allowed to remain in the United States for up to 2 years.
Dependent of H Visa Holders (H-4 Visa)
Spouses and children under the age of 21 of H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, and H3 employees are considered dependents and are eligible for H-4 nonimmigrant status. H-4 beneficiaries are only eligible to be in the US in H-4 status while the principal H employee is in the US in valid H status.
Most H-4 dependents are not authorized to work in the US, and are not eligible for a social security number.
If traveling outside and re-entering the US, H-4 dependents need to ensure that they have a valid passport, a valid H-4 visa stamp, visas, and, if applicable, the Form I-797H Approval Notice for a change of status to, or extension of, H-4 status.
Dependents may seek to change their nonimmigrant status to H-4, or extend their current H-4 status. An application to change or extend status requires the filing of an application on Form I-539/I-539A, with filing and biometrics fees, to USCIS. Applicants will be required to attend a biometrics appointment at a local, designated office as part of the application process.
The L-1 Visa is employment-based and applies to nonimmigrant individuals, families, or businesses who are seeking temporary status through temporary employment in the US.
Within the L-1 Visa Program, there are two types of visas that individuals and business owners can apply for: the L-1A visa and the L-1B visa. To be eligible for an L-1 visa, applicants must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company and be transferred to work for the US entity in the US (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate, collectively referred to as qualifying organizations).
The L-1 visa holder must intend on doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization for the duration of the beneficiary’s stay in the United States.
The employee must have been working for a qualifying organization abroad for one continuous year within the three years immediately preceding his or her admission to the United States.
The L-1A visa is for business owners, intra-company executives, or managers to be transferred to the United States to work. This visa also allows a company that does not currently have a US office to send the owner or a manager to the United States to establish a branch of the business in the US.
The L-1B visa is for employees who hold positions that require specialized skills and knowledge. The US Department of Immigration Services sets specific criteria for what is considers “specialized knowledge”.
The nonimmigrant visa allows US employers to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one in the US. Executive capacity generally refers to the employee’s ability to make decisions of wide latitude without much oversight. Managerial capacity refers to the ability of the employee to supervise and control the work of professional employees and to manage the organization.
You must have worked outside the United States for one full year within the preceding three years on a full-time basis. You must have worked for a qualifying organization outside the US as an executive, manager, or possess specialized knowledge. You must ensure that you are being transferred to the United States to work for a new or existing US business that is either a subsidiary, branch, or affiliate of the foreign company.
If you are an individual who is exceptionally talented and successful in the film and television industry, obtaining an O-1B visa will permit you to work in the United States. If your assistant must accompany you to the US, the O-2 visa will allow for this. If you would like to have your family with you while working in the US, consider the O-3 visa.
To be eligible for the O-1 Visa, applicants must possess an extraordinary ability in either the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.
The O-1 Visa is the overarching program. Within the O-1. applicants may apply for the O-1A, O-1B, O-2, or O-3. The O-1A is for people who have extraordinary abilities or skills in science, education, business, or athletics. O-1B is for people who have extraordinary abilities or skills in the arts or for people who have attained great success and extraordinary achievements in the film and television industries.
O-2 is for people who manage, assist, and accompany an O-1 visa holder, like an athletic coach who must accompany an athlete to a sports competition. O-2 is not available for family members. O-3 is for the spouse, child, or children of an O-1A, O-1B, or O-2 visa holder. O-3 is not available for individuals or businesses.
If you are an athlete or member of an athletic team that has achieved international recognition and will be competing in the United States, you may be eligible for the P-1A visa. If you are part of an international entertainment group that will be performing in the US, you may qualify for the P-1B visa. If you are an artist or entertainer who wants to participate in an exchange program involving a US employer and your foreign employer, you may qualify for the P-2 visa.
For the P-1A Internationally Recognized Athlete visa, athletes must have been a part of and participated in a US professional sports league, US college sports, have received either a national or international sports award, and must have participated in either a national or international sports competition or event to qualify for this visa.
The P-1B Member of an Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group is applicable to performers who have achieved success according to the number of records sold, notoriety from acting a successful film or television show, recognition from critics or other experts in their field, acknowledgement in journals or newspapers, or success and have earned a significant amount of money.
A team or entertainment group must consist of at least two or more members. The group must have been formed at least one year ago and 75% of the team members/entertainers must have been on the team/group for at least one year. The athletic team, athletes, or entertainment group must be internationally recognized.
The P-2 visa is for individuals or groups who would like to enter the United States in a reciprocal exchange program in order to work temporarily as an artist or entertainer for no longer than one year. If you are a P-2 visa holder, you will be working for a US employer and must possess skills comparable to those of US artists and entertainers taking part in the program outside of the United States.
The US employer who is participating in the reciprocal exchange program must begin the application process by filling in Form 1-129. The individual or group who may be granted the P-2 visa is not permitted to begin the process. The US employer must submit supporting documents along with Form 1-129, which should be confirmed with the United States Citizenship Immigration Services.
Processing times for the P visas vary depending on several factors.
The R-1 Visa is a temporary nonimmigrant visa for religious workers working directly in religious work, such as preaching. The intent is for the religious worker to work temporarily within the United States for a religious organization.
To be eligible for the R-1 visa, applicants must have been a member of a religious denomination with a bona fide non-profit religious organization in the United States for at least two year immediately prior to filing the petition.
The religious organization must be registered as a non-profit organization in the US, a religious organization that has ties to any religious denomination in the US, or that has a group tax exemption.
The requirements to apply for the R-1 visa involve having been a member of the religious organization for at least the past 2 years and having been a minister or the religious equivalent. You will be required to work at least 20 hours/week and cannot accept any other employment offers during your stay in the US.
The TN Visa is for Canadian or Mexican individuals and families. This visa is also for businesses who are looking to fill a position in their US organization but not for a business itself.
The applicant must be the individual with the job offer and not the business. The applicant must be seeking temporary residence for work in the United States and must have a valid job offer for a job listed on the qualifying NAFTA occupation list.
To be eligible for the TN visa, you must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico, have a profession that qualifies under the regulations, the position in the United States must require a NAFTA professional, have a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a US employer (not self-employment), and have the TN visa education requirements to practice in the profession in question.
Professionals who are eligible to seek admission as TN nonimmigrants include accountants, architects, chemists, dentists, economists, graphic designers, lawyers, pharmacists, physicians, teachers, urban planners, and veterinarians.
To apply for the TN Visa, you need proof of citizenship, a temporary offer of employment from a US employer, copies of relevant educational degrees, diplomas, and certificates, as well as letters of reference from previous or current employers confirming your experience in your occupation.
Processing times and what to do if your application is refused.
Nationals of Australia (E-3 Visa)
The E-3 visa classification applies only to nationals of Australia, their spouses, and children under the age of 21. E-3 principal applicants must be going to the United States solely to work in a specialty occupation that requires a higher degree of education. The spouse and children do not need to be Australian citizens.
Diplomats or Foreign Government Official (A-1 Visa)
Diplomats and other foreign government officials traveling to the United States to engage solely in official duties or activities on behalf of their national government must obtain A-1 or A-2 visas prior to entering the United States. They cannot travel using visitor visas or under the Visa Waiver Program. With the exception of a Head of State or Government, who qualifies for an A visa regardless of the purpose of travel, your position within your country’s government and your purpose of travel determine whether you need an A-1 or A-2 visa.
Immediate family members of diplomats and government officials receive A-1 or A-2 visas, with few exceptions. Personal employees, attendants, or domestic workers for diplomats and government officials (holding a valid A-1 or A-2 visa) may be issued A-3 visas.
To qualify for an A-1 or A-2 visa, you must be traveling to the United States on behalf of your national government to engage solely in official activities for that government. The specific duties or services that will be performed must be governmental in character or nature, as determined by the US Department of State, in accordance with US immigration laws. Government officials traveling to the United States to perform non-governmental functions of a commercial nature, or traveling as tourists, require the appropriate visas and do not qualify for A visas.
International Organizations (G-1 to G-5 visa and NATO visa)
To receive a G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-4 visa, you must be traveling to attend meetings at, visit, or work at a designated international organization. If you are entitled to a G visa, under US visa law, you must receive a G visa.
The exceptions to this rule are extremely limited. International organization officials and employees requiring visas include permanent mission members of a recognized government to a designated international organization and their immediate family members (G-1), representatives of a recognized government traveling temporarily to the United States to attend meetings of a designated international organization and their immediate family members (G-2), and representatives of non-recognized or non-member governments and their immediate family members (G-3).
Additionally, the visa requires individuals coming to the United States to take up an appointment at a designated international organization and their immediate family members (G-4), and the G-5 visa may be issued to personal employees or domestic workers of G-1-4 visa holders.
To receive a NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, or NATO-6 visa, you must be traveling to the United States under the applicable provision of the Agreement on the Status of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization or the Protocol on the Status of International Military Headquarters Set Up Pursuant to the North Atlantic Treaty.
This includes national representatives, international staff, and immediate family members. Personal employees or domestic workers of a NATO-1-6 visa holder may be issued NATO-7 visas.
International organization and NATO officials and employees traveling to the United States to engage in official duties or activities must enter the United States with a G-1-4 or NATO-1-6 visa. International organization and NATO officials and employees traveling for official purposes are not permitted to enter the United States on any other visa category or under the Visa Waiver Program.
Victims of human trafficking (T visa)
T nonimmigrant status is a temporary immigration benefit that enables certain victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons to remain in the United States for an initial period of up to 4 years if they have complied with any reasonable request for assistance from law enforcement in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of human trafficking or qualify for an exemption or exception.
T nonimmigrant status is also available to certain qualifying family members of trafficking victims. T nonimmigrants are eligible for employment authorization and certain federal and state benefits and services. T nonimmigrants who qualify may also be able to adjust their status and become lawful permanent residents (obtain a Green Card).
You may be eligible for T nonimmigrant status if you are/were a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons, are physically present in the United States, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or at a port of entry due to trafficking, have complied with any reasonable request from a law enforcement agency for assistance in the investigation or prosecution of human trafficking (unless you were 18 at the time at least one of the acts of trafficking occurred or are unable to cooperate due to trauma), demonstrate that you would suffer extreme hardship if you were removed from the United States, and are admissible to the United States (if you are not admissible, you may be eligible for a waiver of certain grounds of inadmissibility using a Form I-192).
Victim of certain criminal activities (U visa)
The U nonimmigrant status visa is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity.
You are eligible for a U nonimmigrant visa if you are the victim of a qualifying criminal activity, you have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity, you have information about the criminal activity (if you are unable to provide information due to being under 16 or disabled, a parent, guardian, or next friend may possess the information about the crime on your behalf), you were/are helpful to law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime, the crime occured in the United States or violated US laws, and you are admissible to the United States (if you are not admissible, you may apply for a waiver on a Form I-192).
The qualifying criminal activities include abduction, sexual abuse, blackmail, domestic violence, extortion, false imprisonment, female genital mutilation, felonious assault, fraid in foreign labour contracting, hostage, incest, involuntary servitude, kidnapping, manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice, peonage, perjury, prostitution, rape, sexual assault, sexual exploitation, slave trade, stalking, torture, trafficking, witness tampering, or unlawful criminal restraint.