Approximately 800,000 non-immigrant temporary US visas are issued yearly to permit foreign workers and their family members to live in the United States for a specified length of time. How long a temporary US work visa (and the corresponding family member visa) is valid for can range from up to one year to five years and is based on the US visa category (for example, H-Visa, L-Visa, O-Visa, etc.) and other variables (e.g., the length of a US employment contract). Many temporary US work visas can also be renewed if the temporary foreign worker meets the criteria. In some cases, an individual living in the United States with a temporary non-immigrant visa to the USA who meets certain criteria may be able to apply for a “change of status” to Lawful Permanent Resident and receive a Green Card if approved. In other situations, a temporary foreign worker will need to apply to renew the non-immigrant US visa before it expires (if this is an option and he/she qualifies) in order to continue living in America legally.
“Eligible family members” of non-immigrant temporary work visa holders include a legally married spouse (opposite sex or same sex) and unmarried children who are less than 21 years of age. Most of the temporary non-immigrant US work visas have a visa sub-category for eligible family members. For example, the eligible family members of an H1-B work visa holder would apply for an H-4 non-immigrant visa to the USA. The eligible family members of a non-immigrant temporary US work visa holder will generally be allowed to live in the USA for the same amount of time as the foreign worker. In some cases, the spouse of a non-immigrant work visa holder will also be permitted to legally work in the United States, but in other instances the spouse will not be allowed to have US employment (this is largely dependent on which type of temporary work visa the foreign worker has).
The holder of a non-immigrant temporary US visa is generally permitted to travel anywhere in the 50 states, so this is a great opportunity to visit America’s incredible cities, beautiful beaches, national parks (such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Statue of Liberty, etc.), amusement parks, museums, or other points of interest while living in the United States. This large and diverse country has something for everyone! In fact, many foreign nationals living in America with a non-immigrant US visa are amazed at the endless selection of consumer goods and services and low prices that are available.
A temporary foreign worker and his/her eligible family members can normally choose where they want to live in America, but this will usually depend on where the foreign worker finds US employment, since employer sponsorship is often required for a non-immigrant work visa. Fortunately, the booming American economy is producing millions of jobs in the USA from coast to coast, so research the prospects for where you might like to live and work in the United States, based on what is most important to you and your family, before you send out your CV/resume. Of course, someone relocating to the United States with the L-Visa (Intracompany Transferee) will likely live in the US state where their company’s office is located (for example, a foreign worker transferring from a multinational company’s London office to its New York City office), but there is still flexibility on where to reside within a reasonable travel distance from the company’s US location. Again, you can conduct research on the Internet regarding the cost of living, location of services, transportation, and other factors related to potential places to live in America.
Below, is an overview of some of the many categories and sub-categories of non-immigrant temporary work visas to the USA:
E-1 Visa (Treaty Trader): This US work visa is designed for individuals from countries that have a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States who will engage in substantial international trade between their home country and the USA while they are living in America. International trade may involve goods, services, technology, banking, insurance, transportation, etc. The E-1 Visa is initially granted for up to two years and requests can be made to renew the E-1 Visa for up to two-year periods with no maximum limit as long as the foreign national meets the criteria. The E-1 Visa holder’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age can also apply for the relevant family visa to live in America. In 2018, 60,438 foreign nationals had been issued the E-1 (Treaty Trader) Visa or E-2 (Treaty Investor) Visa to the USA.
E-2 Visa (Treaty Investor): A foreign national of a country that has a treaty of commerce and navigation with the United States who invests a significant amount of capital in a bona fide business enterprise located in the US and meets other eligibility criteria may be able to receive the E-2 Treaty Investor Visa to the USA. The business must be “a real, active and operating commercial or entrepreneurial undertaking which produces services or goods for profit.” The E-2 Visa is initially granted for up to two years and requests can be made to renew the E-2 Visa for up to two-year periods with no maximum limit as long as the foreign national meets the criteria. The E-2 Visa holder’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age can also apply for the relevant family visa to live in the USA. In 2018, 60,438 foreign nationals had been issued the E-1 (Treaty Trader) Visa or E-2 (Treaty Investor) Visa to the USA.
H-Visa (Temporary Worker): In 2018, there were 593,191 foreign nationals who had received and H-Visa to live in the United States. Qualified foreign workers in a variety of occupations can be granted an H-Visa to the USA through the H1-B (Specialty Occupations), H2-A (Temporary Agricultural Workers), and H2-B (Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers) US work visa sub-categories. The H1-B Visa (Specialty Occupations) is initially issued for a period of up to three years and the foreign worker can request that the time period be extended to live and work in the USA for a maximum of six years total (there are some exceptions to this limit under the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act). The H1-B Visa holder’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age can also apply for the relevant family visa to live in America.
I-Visa (International Media): This US work visa is designed for representatives of foreign media (such as film, radio, and the press) with a home office that is outside of the USA who will relocate to the United States in order to work in this profession. Some of the occupations that qualify for the I-Visa include editors, film crews, reporters and similar foreign media-related jobs. I-Visas are generally issued to foreign nationals for the duration of their status as a foreign media representative working in the USA and it is not necessary to apply for renewal as long as the foreign media representative is still working for the same employer in the same media field. The spouse and children who are under 21 years of age can also apply for the relevant family visa to live in the United States. During 2018, there were 11,874 foreign nationals who were issued the I-Visa to live in the USA.
L-Visa (Intracompany Transferee): In 2018, there were 153,099 foreign nationals who were issued the L-Visa to live in America. The L-Visa is granted to foreign workers who are employed by companies outside of the United States and who then transfer to an office located inside the US (or who open a branch office in the USA) via the L-1A Visa sub-category (Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager) and L-1B Visa sub-category (Intracompany Transferee with Specialized Knowledge). The L-1 Visa is initially granted for up to one year to qualified foreign workers who are relocating to the United States in order to establish a new office, while all other employees can be issued the L-1 Visa for an initial period of up to three years. Employees with an L1-A Visa can request extensions in increments of up to two years each, to work in America for a maximum of seven years total. The spouse and children who are under 21 years of age can also apply for the relevant family visa to live in the USA.
O-Visa (Person with Extraordinary Ability): In 2018, there were 30,259 foreign nationals who had been issued the O-Visa to live in the USA. Qualified foreign workers can be approved for relocation to the United States through the O-1A Visa sub-category (Persons with Extraordinary Ability in Science, Education, Business, or Athletics) or the O-1B Visa sub-category (Persons with Extraordinary Ability in the Arts or Extraordinary Achievement in the Television or Motion Picture Industry). The O-Visa can be granted for an initial period of up to three years and there is an option to apply for renewal of the visa which is usually done in increments of up to one-year each. The spouse and children who are under 21 years of age can also apply for the relevant family visa to live in America.
P-Visa (Internationally Recognized Athlete, Artist or Entertainer): In 2018, there were 36,075 foreign nationals who had been granted the P-Visa to live in America. The sub-categories of this US work visa include the P-1A Visa sub-category (Internationally Recognized Athlete); P-1B Visa sub-category (Member of an Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group); P-2 Visa sub-category (Individual Performer or Part of a Group Entering to Perform Under a Reciprocal Exchange Program); and P-3 Visa sub-category (Artist or Entertainer Coming to Be Part of a Culturally Unique Program). The P-1A Visa (Internationally Recognized Athlete) is initially granted to individual foreign athletes for the amount of time needed to complete the competition, event, or performance up to a maximum of five years and has the option to be renewed if necessary for up to an additional five years (for a maximum of 10 years total). The P-1B Visa, P-2 Visa and P-3 Visa are initially issued for the amount of time needed to complete the competition, event, or performance up to a maximum of one year. Foreign workers who meet the criteria can also request an extension of the P1-B, P-2 and P-3 visas, which can be renewed in increments of up to one year each. The spouse and children who are under 21 years of age can also apply for the relevant family visa to live in the United States.
Q-Visa (International Cultural Exchange): This employment-oriented cultural exchange program promotes the sharing of culture, history and traditions between individuals from other countries and people living in America. The foreign national applying for the Q-1 Visa must be at least 18 years of age, have an authorized sponsoring employer in the United States, be able to communicate effectively to others about his/her culture, and satisfy other criteria. In 2018, there were 1,997 foreign nationals who had been issued the Q-Visa to the USA.
R-Visa (Person in a Religious Occupation): This temporary US work visa is granted to approximately 6,000 ministers and other religious workers from abroad yearly who will relocate to work in the United States at churches, synagogues, mosques and other religious institutions. In 2018, there were 6,307 foreign nationals who had been granted the R-Visa to live in America.
If you would like to live and work in the United States and want to find out if you qualify for a temporary non-immigrant work visa to the USA or a permanent resident immigrant US visa, click here!