Who Qualifies for a Work Visa in the United States?
If you want to qualify for a work visa in the United States, then you first need to meet three main conditions. Failure to meet all of these conditions could make you ineligible for a U.S. work visa.
The conditions include all of the following:
Have a Job Offer in the United States
Before receiving a work visa, you first need a job offer in the United States. Once you have a job offer for a position in the United States from an American company, then you can proceed with the rest of the application process.
Approved Petition by USCIS
United States Customs and Immigration Services handles all petitions from U.S. employers. Your American employer will petition USCIS. The employer’s petition involves proving that the employer will pay you a fair wage similar to what a U.S. worker would receive. The employer also needs to pay a fee and abide by specific working condition requirements. Once the employer has filed the petition, also known as an I-129 form, the USCIS will either approve or deny that petition.
Labor Certification Approval from the Department of Labor
Some of the work visas listed above require you to have a labor certification approval from the United States Department of Labor. Essentially, this document ensures that the American business genuinely needs to hire foreign workers to stay competitive. The employer may need to verify that they cannot find American workers to do the job, which is why they hire foreign workers. The goal of this process is to ensure that American companies are not hiring cheap foreign labor to replace costlier American workers who would otherwise be able to do the job.
With these three things, you can begin applying for a U.S. work visa.
Requirements for a U.S. Work Visa
We mentioned the core requirements for a U.S. work visa above. In addition to those requirements, you need to provide other information similar to what you would see on a traditional visa application, including:
- Valid passport that will not expire within six months of your estimated date of departure from the United States
- Visa photo that abides by all U.S. visa photo requirements (upload this photo when you fill out the online application)
- Receipt number from your employer’s I-129 petition
- Confirmation page certifying that you have completed your non-immigrant visa application (DS-160 form)
- Receipt proving you have paid the application fee after filling out the DS-160 form (typical application fee for a U.S. work visa is $190 USD)
- Proof you intend to return to your home country once your work visa expires (if visiting the United States on a non-immigrant temporary work visa); this proof can include documents proving a stronger connection to your home country or a document stating long-term plans in your home country
- An I-129S form for L visa applicants, which is a special petition reserved for those making an intra-company transfer
These are the general requirements for most U.S. work visas. Your specific work visa might come with additional requirements. Make sure you understand all document requirements prior to beginning your work visa application.
How Does a U.S. Work Visa Application Work?
Once you have completed the three qualifications above and verified you have the information directly above, you can proceed with your work visa application.
The specific process varies between work visas. However, you generally just need to complete an online application form and then attend an interview at your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate:
Step 1) Complete Form DS-160: Form DS-160 is the standard form for non-immigrant visa applications to the United States. You can find it online at your local U.S. embassy’s website. Enter all required information into the form, then submit the form and receive your receipt. You should receive a confirmation page and a barcode confirming your completion of the DS-160 form.
Step 2) Pay your Fee: All U.S. work visas come with an application fee ranging from $160 to $300. This fee must be paid in order to proceed with the next steps. After you pay your fee, make sure you have the receipt confirming that you have made the payment. You will need that receipt moving forward.
Step 3) Schedule your Interview: After completing the two steps above, you can schedule your interview with a U.S. embassy or consulate in your country of residence.
Step 4) Collect your Required Documents: In the weeks leading up to your embassy interview, collect all required documents that we mentioned above. You may also need additional documents that are not mentioned above depending on your unique work visa.
Step 5) Attend Your Interview: Bring your documents and yourself to the U.S. embassy for your interview. You may have your fingerprints taken prior to your interview. The interview will begin, and the consular officer will ask questions to verify the information on your application. The goal of the interview is to ensure that you have been truthful and that you intend to abide by the rules of your U.S. work visa.
Can My Dependents Join Me in the United States?
If you have a work visa, then you may be able to bring certain dependents – like a spouse and children – to the United States to accompany you. Certain work visas qualify for additional dependent visas, including all of the following:
- H visa holders can request an H-4 visa for their spouse and children
- L visa holders can request an L-2 visa for their spouse and children
- visa holders can request an O-3 visa for their spouse and children
- P visa holders can request a P-4 visa for their spouse and children
- Q visa holders can request a Q-3 visa for their spouse and children
Typically, your family will qualify as “dependents” if they are your spouse or your unmarried children under age 21. If your family qualifies for a dependent visa, then they should be able to remain in the United States with you throughout the duration of your work visa.
If you do not see your visa type listed above, then your family may still visit you while you work in the United States. However, they will have to qualify for their own visa – say, an ordinary B-2 visitor visa.