There are many types of work visa categories in the U.S., each with specific requirements as to type of position, type of employer, duration, etc. One of the most important steps in the visa application process is to determine which of these categories may be the most suitable, considering the nature of the position, your background and goals, as well as other important factors.
In this article we present here an overview of common occupations and a selection of the appropriate visa categories for those positions.
- Hospitality Management positions
- Chefs and Cooks
- Medical Doctors
- Information Technology Positions
- Fashion Models
- Accountant and Taxation consultants
- Agricultural Workers
- Au pair or Nanny
- Teacher / Professor
- Research Assistant / Scientist
- Religious Workers
Hospitality Management Positions
E-2 visa: Assuming that the company qualifies as an E-2 enterprise, managers and persons with specialized knowledge may be granted E-2 visas. These visas usually will be granted for experienced personnel who will manage the organization. Specialized knowledge employees may be familiar with the company’s accounting systems, security measures, human resources methods and policies, or computer systems.
H-1B visa: The USCIS may grant H-1B visa petitions for hotel managers, assistant managers, night managers, food and beverage managers, stewards, and other related positions. Extensive evidence is needed to prove why the job needs an employee with a bachelor’s degree in a specific field.
L-1 visa: Multinational hotel management companies and hotel chains may transfer their managerial employees to the U.S. with the L-1A. It must be demonstrated that the individual will have managerial responsibility by overseeing tiers of employees or professionals, or that the individual will be a functional manager, such as in running the hotel at night with a skeleton staff. Similarly, L-1B specialized knowledge petitions may be approved for individuals who are familiar with a hotel’s specific brand, special or proprietary computer systems, accounting methods, and so forth.
O-1 visa: With articles about the individual and the hotels managed, awards won, and so forth, a distinguished hotel manager may qualify for an O-1 extraordinary ability visa. A hotel or restaurant manager must show he or she is ‘one of the small percentages who have risen to the top of the field of endeavor.’
TN visa: Hotel managers are listed in the NAFTA Schedule of Professionals. To qualify for a hotel management TN visa, the position must be a managerial one. The regulations regarding the foreign worker require that he or she have a ‘baccalaureate or licenciatura degree in hotel/restaurant management; or post-secondary diploma or post-secondary certificate in hotel/restaurant management and three years’ experience in hotel/restaurant management.’ Interestingly, this is the only TN category which requires a specific degree in a specific field.
J-1 visa: Many hotels throughout the U.S. host J-1 Trainees and Interns for Hospitality Management training programs.
Chefs And Cooks
E-2 visa: Chefs holding managerial or specialist positions may be issued E-2 visas to work for a qualified E-2 enterprise. For example, a large Japanese-owned restaurant chain may employ a number of Japanese chefs using E-2 visas. A small E-2 qualified restaurant also may justify employment of a chef in a managerial or specialist position. Chefs who start their own restaurants are often eligible for E-2 status as principal investors.
H-2B visa: Chefs and cooks may qualify for temporary positions during peak seasons—for example, the employer is a ski resort and the position is for the winter season as they are not open in the summer.
J-1 visa: A young cook or chef seeking exposure to how a restaurant operates in the U.S. may obtain a J-1 trainee visa. Many organizations have J-1 programs specifically accredited for training in the culinary arts.
L-1 visa: Chefs with significant management responsibilities employed by multinational companies may be eligible for L-1A visas. It may also be possible that a specialized knowledge chef or cook could obtain an L-1B visa. For example, an international airline catering company may have unique processes, technologies, and procedures for preparing their food and delivering it to airplanes such that an employee with specialized knowledge is necessary. It is important to note that USCIS is extremely wary about the approval of L-1 visas for those in the culinary industry.
O-1 visa: O-1 visas are available for chefs of extraordinary ability. Extensive evidence is required to show that the chef is a culinary “artist” of ‘distinction’ who is ‘renowned, leading, or well-known’ in the field.
TN visa: Chefs are not included in the NAFTA Schedule of Professionals. Some chefs, however, may work from time to time as management consultants to advise on the design, building, opening, and advertising of new restaurants, as well as the menu planning. In this situation, a management consultant TN visa may be granted to a Canadian or Mexican chef.
B1 visa: Personal domestic employees, including cooks or chefs, employed by Americans temporarily returning to the U.S. from a foreign assignment may be employed by the family in the U.S. with a B-1 visa. Similarly, domestic employees, may be issued B-1 visas for employment by foreign nationals with nonimmigrant employment visas including H-1B and L-1. Once in the U.S. the B-1 Chef or cook must apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) in order to begin working.
Green Card: The DOL regulations for Schedule A provide that nurses are exempt from the labor certification requirement. Thus, a U.S. employer (usually a hospital, nursing agency, or convalescent facility) may file a Green Card petition on behalf of the nurse.
H-1B visa: Nurses may qualify for H-1B visas only if the position they will fill requires at least a bachelor’s degree. Only high-level nursing positions such as administrators, nurse practitioners, midwives, specialist nursing positions and other positions requiring advanced degrees or equivalent work experience generally qualify for H-1B visas. Otherwise, the petitioner needs to prove that its facility only hires nurses with bachelor’s degrees or the state where the individual is employed only licenses nurses who have bachelor’s degrees.
TN visa: The NAFTA Schedule of Professionals includes nurse as a TN qualifying profession for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Applicants must have a state or provincial license or licenciatura degree.
Note: It’s important to remember that nurses, as foreign health care workers, are inadmissible unless they can obtain a VisaScreen from CGFNS. Only certain nurses are exempt from this requirement.
H-1B visa: As medicine is a specialty occupation (the occupation requires someone with no less than a medical degree or its equivalent), doctors can obtain the H-1B visa. Generally, foreign national doctors must have a certificate from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) confirming that their medical education abroad is equivalent to the M.D.
J-1 visa: Nonimmigrant physicians who are coming to the U.S. to obtain graduate medical education and training (generally residencies and fellowships) may obtain a J-1 Physician exchange visitor visa through the Educational Council for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Their website, www.ecfmg.org, is very informative and answers many questions regarding qualification, certification, and the application process. All physicians who come to the U.S. under the J-1 Physician program to pursue graduate medical education are subject to the 2-year home residency requirement and cannot obtain a “no-objection” waiver.
J-2 visa: The J-2 visa spouse of a physician who is in the U.S. in J-1 status can work after obtaining the Employment Authorization Document (EAD). Many J-2 spouses elect to pursue their own medical training (residencies and fellowships) with the EAD.
TN visa: The NAFTA Schedule of Professionals includes Physician as a TN qualifying profession for Canadian and Mexican citizens but only for teaching or research positions. Applicants must have a M.D., Doctor en Medicina or state/provincial license.
Information Technology Positions
H-1B visa: USCIS generally recognizes that software engineers, systems engineers, database administrators, and other computer/information technology (IT) positions can be professional/specialty occupations.
One computer occupation which regularly receives pushback from USCIS is that of “Computer Programmer.” Relying on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, which states that entry into the occupation of Computer Programmers may only be an Associate’s Degree, USCIS has said that the employer must be able to show through evidence that the occupation in question is a specialty occupation.
L-1 visa: Multinational software companies may transfer their foreign national executives or managers on L-1A visa to manage a subsidiary or a major function or division of a subsidiary. IT professionals with specialized knowledge such as company products, research methods and marketing techniques may be transferred under the L-1B category.
E visa: IT professionals from treaty countries may be granted both E-1 and E-2 visa as managers and persons with specialized knowledge.
TN visa: Canadian and Mexican software professional have several TN options. The most common is the occupation of Computer Systems Analyst – which is very broadly defined and may cover many IT areas. A second option is that of an Engineer – USCIS recognizes computer and software engineers as engineers for TN purposes. However, they do look for a degree in engineering or closely related field. A third option is that of a Management Consultant. As a management consultant you have to have a bachelor’s degree or 5 years experience in the field. You have to be coming to work for a consulting company or to fill a ‘supernumerary’ position with a company in the US.
H-1B visa: Fashion models may apply under the H-1B category if they can demonstrate they are of “distinguished merit and ability”. The applicable standard requires the model to show that he or she is prominent in his/her field and that the position requires prominence. This category does not include support occupations such as hair stylists and make-up artists who may apply through O-1 or H-2B categories.
H-1B visa: Fashion models may also apply under the O-1 category if they can demonstrate that they have reached the top of the field of modeling. Unlike artists and actors, models are held to the highest extraordinary ability standard- they have sustained national or international acclaim and recognition for their achievements. This category can also support individuals who are hair stylists and make-up artists, who may qualify under the lower “artist” standard.
O-1B visa: Entertainers may apply for the O-1B category if they can demonstrate extraordinary ability in the arts by distinction in the field, i.e. a high level of achievement in the field of the arts evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that a person described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field of arts. Entertainers who work in the motion picture or television industry must show that he or she is outstanding, notable or leading in the motion picture and/or television field.
P-1B visa: Internationally recognized entertainment groups are eligible for this visa category if the group can show that they have been internationally recognized for a sustained and substantial period of time. At least 75% of the members of the group need to have been performing as a group for at least 1 year.
P-2 visa: The P2 visa is available to artists and entertainment groups, and their support personnel for entering the U.S. to perform under a reciprocal exchange program between the U.S. and the foreign country.
P-3 visa: Entertainers can come to the U.S. on the P-3 visa perform, teach, or coach as artists or entertainers, individually or as part of a group under a commercial or non-commercial program that is culturally unique.
O-1A visa: Athletes may apply for the O-1A category if they can demonstrate they have a level of expertise making them one of a small percentage of people who have reached the top of their field. Coaches/trainers could also qualify under this category but they have to qualify as an extraordinary coach or trainer.
P-1A visa: Individual athletes entering in the P-1A category must do so in conjunction with a specific athletic competitions or events. The athlete must be internationally recognized. Coaches do not qualify or this category but may qualify as essential support personnel if accompanying a P-1 athlete.
B-1 visa: Individual professional athletes can enter on the B-1 visa if they don’t expect to receive a salary and are entering to compete in a limited number of sporting event. Amateur hockey players can also use the B-1 to try-out for the NHL.
B-2 visa: Amateur athletes can use the B-2 to enter the U.S. to participate in a competition or for social or charitable events.
Accountant And Taxation Consultants
H-1B visa: An organization could file an H-1B for the job position of Accountant if the job duties don’t involve simple record keeping/bookkeeping, accounting and limited internal auditing.
TN visa: The NAFTA Schedule of Professionals includes accountants as a TN qualifying profession for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Applicants must have a bachelor’s or licenciatura degree, or a CPA, CA, CGA or CMA.
H-2A visa: The H-2A temporary agricultural program establishes a means for agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring nonimmigrant foreign workers to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of a temporary or seasonal nature.
H-1B visa: Certain management and technical/professional positions may qualify for the H-1B visa.
H-1B visa: Architects have been recognized as a specialty occupation by USCIS.
TN visa: The NAFTA Schedule of Professionals includes architects as a TN qualifying profession for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Applicants must have a bachelor’s or licenciatura degree, or a state/provincial license.
Additionally, USCIS has recognized that unlicensed architects who work under the ‘aegis’ of a licensed senior or supervisor architect may be classified as H-1B professionals as well
Au Pair Or Nanny
J-1 visa: The Au Pair Program permits 22,720 youths from abroad to be placed with U.S. families seeking child care under the J-1 category. DOS has now developed a second au pair program called EduCare that provides for less child care work and a greater academic component. Under EduCare an Au Pair will provide child care services only for 30 hours (instead of 45 hours) per week and will take no less than 12 (instead of 6) semester hours of academic credit or its equivalent per year.
B-1 visa: Personal domestic employees, including au pairs or nannies, employed by Americans temporarily returning to the U.S. from a foreign assignment may be employed by the family in the U.S. with a B-1 visa. Similarly, domestic employees, may be issued B-1 visas for employment by foreign nationals with nonimmigrant employment visas including H-1B and L-1. Once in the U.S. the B-1 Au Pair or Nanny must apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) in order to begin working.
H-1B visa: USCIS has recognized that chemists, including organic and physical chemists, may be classified as H-1B specialty occupations.
L-1 visa: Multinational companies may transfer their foreign national executives or managers on L-1A visa to manage a subsidiary or a major function or division of a subsidiary. Professionals with specialized knowledge such as, company products, research methods and marketing techniques may be transferred under the L-1B specialized knowledge category.
O-1 visa: An extraordinary Chemist who has received major prizes or awards or other recognition for outstanding achievements and are considered people with extraordinary ability and have achieved a level of expertise indicating that they are among the few individuals who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor may work in the U.S. with an O-1 visa.
TN visa: The NAFTA Schedule of Professionals includes chemists as a TN qualifying profession for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Applicants must have a bachelor’s or licenciatura degree.
H-1B visa: USCIS has recognized that economist is a specialty occupation.
TN visa: The NAFTA Schedule of Professionals includes economist as a TN qualifying profession for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Applicants must have a bachelor’s or licenciatura degree.
O-1 visa: Foreign national economists who have received major prizes or awards or other recognition for outstanding achievements and are considered people with extraordinary ability and have achieved a level of expertise indicating that they are among the few individuals who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor may work in the U.S. with an O-1 visa.
H-1B visa: USCIS recognizes legal professions requiring the JD or LLB as specialty occupations and U.S. employers may file H-1B petitions for foreign nationals to work in the U.S.
TN visa: The NAFTA Schedule of Professionals includes lawyers (including Notary in the province of Quebec) as a TN qualifying profession for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Applicants must have an L.L.B., J.D., L.L.L., B.C.L., or Licenciatura degree (five years); or membership in a state/provincial bar.
Teacher / Professor
H-1B visa: USCIS recognizes that teaching at a grade school, high school or post-secondary level is a specialty occupation. For teachers at the grade school or high school level, licensure or eligibility for licensure may be required, depending on the state where the job is located.
J visa: There are 2 separate categories for educators under the J-1—the J-1 Teacher and J-1 Professor/Research Scholar. J-1 Teacher is reserved for those coming to the teach full-time at the elementary or secondary school level. The J-1 Professor/Research scholar is for those coming to teach at the university level in a non-tenure track position.
O visa: Foreign national professors and teachers recognized internationally as outstanding in their academic field may work in the U.S. with an O-1 visa.
TN visa: The NAFTA Schedule of Professionals includes College or University Teachers and Seminary Teachers TN qualifying professions for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Applicants must have a bachelor’s or licenciatura degree.
Research Assistant / Scientist
H-1B visa: USCIS recognizes that scientists are generally a specialty occupation. Research assistants may be specialty occupation if it can be clearly shown that the position involves actual research duties and not technician duties.
J visa: There are several categories that scientists and research assistants may be eligible for under the J-1—the J-1 Research Scholar, J-1 Short-Term Scholar, J-1 Professor, and J-1 Specialist.
O visa: Foreign national scientists who have received major prizes or awards or other recognition for outstanding achievements and are considered people with extraordinary ability and have achieved a level of expertise indicating that they are among the few individuals who have risen to the very top of the field of endeavor may work in the U.S. with an O-1 visa.
TN visa: The NAFTA Schedule of Professionals includes an entire list of over 20 Scientist Professions a TN qualifying profession for Canadian and Mexican citizens. These include everything from Physicists, Pharmacologists and Geologists to Meteorologists, Animal Breeders and Horticulturists. Applicants must have a bachelor’s or licenciatura degree.
R-1 visa: The R-1 visa category allows foreign nationals to enter the U.S. to be employed in a religious vocation (minister, priest, monk, nun, etc) or in a religious occupation (including teachers). The R-1 category allows foreign nationals engaged in a broad range of religious occupations to enter the U.S. to perform services related to their religious calling or vocation and receive direct compensation for their work. The regulations exclude from this group janitors, maintenance workers, clerks, fundraisers, and persons involved solely in the solicitation of donations, or similar occupations.
H-1B visa: Certain religious professionals may enter the US in H-1B status to perform their religious duties if it can be shown that a bachelor’s degree is required for entry into the profession.
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