Non-Immigrant visas allow individuals to enter the United States temporarily and do not offer a path to legal residency and citizenship. They can authorize an individual to work, attend school, explore business opportunities, or simply visit as a tourist. The amount of time allotted for an individual with a non-immigrant visa to remain in the United States depends on the type of visa. Additionally, individuals admitted on one type of visa can sometimes change their status to that of a different visa.
Employers can temporarily employ foreign workers in the U.S. in either a specialty occupation or as a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability. In order to qualify as a specialty occupation, the position must require a body of specialized knowledge in addition to a Bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in that field. The U.S. government has limited the number of foreign workers who may be granted H-1B status each year to 65,000 with up to 20,000 additional H-1B visas available to graduates of U.S. Master’s degree programs.
E-1 Treaty Trader Visa
The E1 visa is for Treaty Traders. A person may enter the United States temporarily using this visa in order to carry on trade between their home country and the U.S. if their home country has a treaty with the United States.
E-2 Treaty Investor Visa
The E2 visa is for Treaty Investors. A person may enter the United States using this visa in order to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which they have invested. Employees of Treaty Investors who perform duties that require special qualifications and are essential to the business may also obtain an E visa. These employees must have the same nationality as the alien employer and their home country must have a treaty with the United States.
L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa
High level and essential employees of multinational companies may be eligible for L-1 visas if they are being transferred to the United States. In order to qualify for an L-1 visa the employee must have worked at the same employer in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity within the last three years for a minimum of one year.
O-1 Extraordinary Ability (“Artist’s”) Visa
O visas are available to highly talented or acclaimed foreign nationals such as entertainers, scientists, businessmen, and athletes. A high level of achievement must be shown by qualifying for at least 3 out of a set of 10 standard criteria.
Internationally known athletes and entertainment groups may be eligible to come to the United States temporarily on a P visa. Performing artists that are part of a reciprocal exchange program are eligible for P-2 visas, and culturally unique entertainers are eligible for P-3 visas.
Religious workers may use an R-1 visa to come to the United States in order to participate in a religious occupation and perform services for their religious organization as long as the religious organization is already established in the United States.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allows for citizens of Mexico and Canada to apply for a TN visa. In order to qualify for a TN visa, an applicant must be employed in one of the listed professions in NAFTA.