The United States of America has the largest economy in the world. Known for its business friendly laws, the US is home to major tech companies like Apple, Google, and Meta, as well as Fortune 500 companies, major banks, Hollywood, and some of the world’s best universities. The country is a leader in a number of industries, including media, sports, tech, and finance.
The United States has many job opportunities for foreigners who hope to immigrate. However, you will need to hone in on your professional qualifications, as the US does not give visas to expats unless they have a specialized skill that makes them an asset to local businesses.
To obtain a work visa in the United States, an individual will need to have a sponsorship from either a job or from a family member to enter the country. The process can be lengthy, and a relatively small amount of work visas are given out to foreigners every year. If you plan to apply for a work visa in the United States, it is a good idea to apply early on in the year.
Here is information on everything that employers need to know about the work visa process for their employees, as well as what potential expats need to know about obtaining a visa and entering the United States.
A US work visa allows foreigners to legally live and work in the country. All visas will need either a sponsorship from a company/employer or from a family member who can legally prove that they have the financial means to support the expat that plans to immigrate here. Family sponsorship is the most common type of visa sponsorship for individuals who immigrate to the US from Mexico or Canada.
There are quite a few different visa options to choose from in the United States. Here is a list of some of the most common types:
E-2 visa for investors
I visa for foreign media representatives
H-IB visa for professionals in a special occupation (most common visa for foreigners)
H-1C visa for registered nurses
L-1A/B visa for intra-company transferees
O visa for foreign individuals with extraordinary abilities, achievements, or academics
TN NAFTA visa for professionals from Mexico and Canada
H-1B visas are the most common U.S. working visas and the one that foreign employees will need to apply for. This is a non-immigrant visa that allows foreign workers to travel and stay in the US for specific jobs.
Non-immigrant visas like the H-1B are easier to be approved for compared to immigrant visas. Immigrant visas allow you to permanently migrate and live in the United States. However, they have a lot more requirements and are much harder to be approved for.
A work permit in the US is not necessary, as a work visa process will suffice in filling the requirements for individuals that want to work here. Sometimes, people use the terms “US work permit” and “US work visa” interchangeably.
For foreigners to obtain a visa in the US, they will need to apply and meet all of the requirements to live and work in the United States as well. Applying for a work visa in the US basically acts as a petition to the government for entry into the country.
The H-1B visa is the most common visa that foreigners apply for in order to be approved to work in the United States. You should check online to see what visa fits your professional qualifications and what skills you need in order to be eligible for a visa in the USA.
Visas can take a few months for approval, so beginning the application process early is important. There is a limit on the amount of H-1B visas that are issued each year. Luckily, employees can begin most of the paperwork and application process at the US consulate or embassy in their home country. Some visas may require additional documentation for approval.
As an expat you will need to provide:
An employment offer from a company based in the US
A copy of your CV and resume
Copies of any relevant degrees, certificates, and transcripts
Proof of financial stability
Proof of address
Submission and completion of all government mandated forms
Employers need to provide the following:
Company’s federal Tax ID number
Job title, salary, and job requirements with a detailed job description
Name, address, and phone number of the company
Name and job title of the individual signing the forms on the companies behalf
As the employer, it is your responsibility to petition for your employee to obtain a H-1B visa and make sure they have the right documents and resources. Employees will also need a job offer in order to qualify for a US immigrant visa. The application process can be quite lengthy, so a head start on the process is necessary for the employee to be approved.
Here is a general breakdown of the necessary steps that employers should follow during the application process:
Employer files petition. This should include job specifics, date of employment, and employee duties
Employer determines the prevailing wage and the actual wage for the position. To find the wage, the employer will need to file a form with the State Employment Agency in the US. This will determine the actual wage by comparing other similar positions. Once the wage is determined, the employer must pay the higher of the two wages.
Employer must file a Labor Certification Application. This signifies that the company agrees to pay the determined wage and that the company agrees to offer the same benefits to the foreign employee as they do to other employees at the company.
The US Department of Labor approves the application. Once approved, the company will receive a certified copy of the LCA. This needs to be posted at the company’s worksite to show that you applied for an LCA.
Employer logs the petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. They will be issued a receipt with a reference number that estimates the time of processing.
USCIS approves the petition. Once the petition is approved, the employer will receive an I-797 form. This allows the employee to begin working for the employer/company.
One of the main issues that foreigners run into when applying for a work visa in the US is finding an employer that will sponsor their work visa and pay all of the necessary fees.
Visa sponsorship in the US is costly and can range anywhere from $4,000-$9,000.
The price breaks down as follows:
Form I-129 ($460)
Form I-40 ($700)
American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act of 1998 charges ($750-$1500)
Fraud Prevention and Detection Fee ($500)
For employers with more than 50 employees, with half of them being foreign nationals ($4000-$4500)
Legal fees (variable)
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