How long does it take to get a US work visa?

Even before it was officially established, the United States has always been the land of opportunity.

Millions of entrepreneurs and employment seekers have flocked to America over the years, and the government has responded to these desires with a variety of work visa options.

These work visas can fit a variety of needs, and some of them are easier to get than others. If your dream is to legally work in the US, you will need to undergo the work visa process and be prepared to pay the fees and take all necessary steps.

Naturally, you may be wondering how long this will take. This will depend on whether you’re applying for a non-immigration visa or an immigration visa. 

When can I get a US work visa?

Processing times for US work visas vary significantly. If you are applying for a temporary or non-immigration visa, it may take a few weeks or even months to process.

If you are looking for permanence through an immigration work visa, it may take months or years. Some do offer expedited processing for a greater fee, but it may be ideal to speak with an EB5 visa attorney to find out more about the timeframe and requirements you need to meet. 

Understanding types of US work visas

Since there are many kinds of visas for the US, it may not be clear which is the best option for you. As mentioned, there are non-immigration visas and immigrations visas. Here is a look at these work visa options. 

Non-immigration work visas

For non-immigration visas, you can choose the B-1 visa, ideal for the temporary business visitor. You can enter the US to conduct business transactions, but you aren’t allowed to work as a traditional employee.

The H-2B visa is for temporary non-agricultural workers. If you are taking a seasonal job on an intermittent basis, this may be the ideal visa for you. The government limits the number of H-2B visas that are issued every year.

Conversely, the H-2A visa is for temporary agricultural workers that are performing temporary or seasonal work. The H-2A is limited to only a three-year term and applicants will only be considered from select countries.

The H-1B visa is for temporary workers that hold a university degree. You must be in a specialty occupation that fits specific criteria. Firstly, your occupation must require highly specialized knowledge and secondly, your occupation must require a bachelor’s degree at minimum in your relevant field.

This work visa is ideal for students that are trying to get their start, though the government limits how many are issued. Additionally, you must receive an offer of employment from a US employer who will make an application on your behalf.

An L-1 visa is an option for intra-company workers who work for international companies with US offices. You must be an employee to get this work visa, which can give you three months to five years, depending on the foreign country.

Extensions are always possible, but the L-1 can’t be renewed after a total of 7 years. The benefit of this work visa is that it allows your accompanying spouse to apply for a work visa too.

Those with extraordinary abilities or achievements can apply for the O-1 work visa. Applicants must provide supporting documentation that details their expertise in their field along with their skills, ability, and honors they have achieved.

If you are a trainee or an exchange student, you will want to apply for the J-1 visa. This allows you to train in an accredited program for teaching, lecturing, research, or studying. For those planning to work for a living, the J-1 isn’t ideal, but it can be a great stepping stone for immigrants looking to get workforce training.

Immigrant work visas

For foreign nationals who wish to move to America to live and work on a permanent basis, you will want to look at the E-visa category to build your dreams. These visas allow you to apply for your Green Card after a certain amount of time and requirements are met.

The EB-1 visa is an option for workers who have exceptional knowledge in business, arts, science, athletics, and education. Generally, professors and researchers are a great match for this immigrant work visa, though executives and managers of foreign companies may also qualify.

The EB-2 visa is for workers who have a bachelor’s or master’s degree and 5 years of established work experience post-bachelor’s. There is also the EB-3 visa for skilled workers or professionals with a bachelor’s degree if they are fulfilling a role requiring the completion of a college degree.

Another type of work visa is really considered as an investor visa. This applies to the EB-5 and E-2 visas that are for financiers. The EB-5 visa is more common, and often called the Green Card Program. There are minimum investment requirements, especially when compared to the E-2 visa.

An EB-5 visa may be ideal if you are an entrepreneur who wants permanent residency status. It allows you to bring your family as well, though it is expensive, requiring you to make investments in a targeted employment area at a minimum of $900,000 or for a non-target employment area, $1.8 million.

Additionally, as the investor, you’ll need to generate at least 10 full-time jobs for American workers within two years. You may want to consider the E-2 visa if you are planning to develop and direct operations for an enterprise you have invested into previously. 

How to apply for a US work visa

Applying for a US work visa requires that you determine which visa is applicable for you. You will then need to fill out the correct forms properly and pay all associated fees. This can be incredibly confusing for many people, and it’s easy to make a mistake.

Investor visas can be even more complicated to obtain than immigrant work visas. It is ideal to discuss your work visa options with an immigration attorney who can provide proper legal guidance in your unique situation and ensure your paperwork is in order.