Work Visas - What are they and how to obtain a Work Visa?

The United States houses thousands of foreign workers across a number of employment fields every year. A work visa or work permit is a generic term for a legal authorization giving permission to work in a country where one does not hold citizenship.

Typically, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either for temporary or permanent residence. Temporary worker visas are for persons who want to enter the United States for employment lasting for a fixed period of time and are not considered permanent or indefinite.

It is very common to not be certain about what you need to do, or what type of visa to apply for, when bringing a non-US national to work for you because there are almost 60 different types of temporary visas.

Additionally, the U.S. government has several routes for getting permanent residence for foreigners, the most commonly mentioned, being a “green card.”

However, there are 5 main ways an individual can obtain residency and work authorization in the United States:

1) Sponsorship by an employer

2) Investment

3) Sponsorship by a close family member in the United States

4) Diversity Visa Lottery Program

5) Asylum & refugee status

Steps to Getting a Work Visa

The very first thing a business should think about, is for how long do you need the foreign employee?

This will establish what type of work visa you will want to apply for, since there are easier ways to get visas for shorter time lengths and vice versa for longer periods of time.

Additionally, it is important that you adhere to the terms of your application because any violation can result in removal or denial of re-entry into the United States. After figuring out the length of the stay of the employee, both the employer and the employee will have specific steps to take. The employer must file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) to the USCIS and get approval.

There will also be specific instructions from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. On the employee side, you will need to go online and file for your Nonimmigrant Visa Application, which is Form DS-160.

Generally, after paying the fees and submitting your application you will need to sign-up for an interview and get the necessary documents ready for this. Information from this point forward will vary on the type of work visa and application you choose, but those are some of the basics and more information can be found on the USCIS’s website.

H-1B Visa - Specialty Occupation Worker (skilled worker)

H-2B Visa - Temporary non-agricultural worker

H-2A Visa - Temporary agricultural worker

L-1 Visa - Intra-company Transferee

B-1 Visa - Business visitors

J-1 Visa - Exchange Visitor Program

Green Card - Permanent Residence to live and work in the U.S.


If you need help obtaining a work visa, UpCounsel allows you to easily connect with quality immigration attorneys about your situation and choose an attorney that is best for you and your budget for obtaining an employee work visa in the United States.

Need help obtaining a Work Visa?

Post a Job on UpCounsel and Connect with Quality Immigration Attorneys who can help you get a work visa today.