B-1 Outer Continental Shelf Visas
A B-1 OCS (“Outer Continental Shelf”) Visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows a person to travel to the United States during the validity of the visa to accomplish work on the Outer Continental Shelf. The B-1 Business Visitor Visa with OCS designation is a temporary visa that allows foreign crew members and/or foreign temporary specialists working in the Outer Continental Shelf to embark and disembark from vessels engaged in OCS activities.
Foreign crew members and/or foreign temporary specialists must possess the correct U.S. Coast Guard approval along with supporting documentation in order to apply for a B-1 OCS visa. Failure to possess the correct visa when a vessel arrives at a U.S. port will result in the owner/operator of the vessel having to post an armed guard at the gangway and the crew not being permitted to disembark the vessel or depart the country without an armed escort.
H-1B Specialty Occupation Visas
The H-1B visa program is specific to employers seeking to hire nonimmigrant aliens as workers in specialty occupations. A specialty occupation is one that requires the application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and the attainment of at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent. Typically, this will entail completion of a specific course of higher education. For certain individuals with specialized skills and considerable work experience, equivalency evaluations can be obtained to meet the educational requirements. H-1B Specialty Occupation Visas are nonimmigrant visas.
Prior to filing the H-1B petition, an employer must file a Labor Condition Application (“LCA”) with the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”). The LCA defines the employer’s obligations to ensure that the foreign worker does not adversely affect the wages or working conditions of United States workers.
Upon approval of the LCA, the H-1B petition is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). At the time of filing, employers are responsible for paying all fees related to the petition, with a few minor exceptions, and comply with the wage requirements imposed by the DOL.
Authorization for H-1B employment is specific to the petitioning company. Additionally, the authorization extends only to the specific occupation and location named in the H-1B petition. The petition cannot be transferred between employers without the new company first filing a petition with USCIS.
H-1B petitions may be approved for up to 3 years and can be extended for up to a total of 6 years, regardless of the numbers of employers. Generally, after 6 years of H-1B status, the candidate must reside outside the United States for a full year to reset the 6-year clock. However, under certain circumstances, H-1B employees who have started a green card process may be eligible to extend their status beyond the 6 years.
New H-1B visas are subject to the current 65,000 visa limit per fiscal year, in addition to the 20,000 available to H-1B applicants holding U.S. advanced degrees. The earliest date to file an H-1B petition subject to the quota is April 1, for a start date of October 1 (the start of the government’s fiscal year). Certain educational institutions and nonprofit or government research organizations are exempt from the cap. Nationals of Singapore and Chile are eligible for an H-1B1 visa, which has similar requirements to those of the H-1B visa, but are not subject to the quota.
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of H-1B workers are eligible for dependent visas in the H-4 classifications. H-4 children do not qualify for work authorization. In some case, H-4 spouses may qualify to apply for work authorization.
H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Visas
H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Visas are nonimmigrant visas. The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs. Such employers are required to obtain certification that it undertook an active effort to recruit U.S. workers first, including newspaper and radio advertising. The H-2A certification is valid for up to 364 days.
H-2A petitions may only be approved for nationals of countries designated by the United States government. A national from a country not so designated may only be the beneficiary of an approved H-2A petition if the U.S. government determines that it is in the United States’ interest for him or her to be the beneficiary of such a petition.
Generally, H-2A classification may be granted for up to the period of time authorized on the temporary labor certification and may be extended in increments of 1 year. A new, valid temporary labor certification covering the requested time must accompany each extension request. The maximum period of stay in H-2A classification is 3 years.
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of H-2A workers are eligible for dependent visas in the H-4 classifications. H-4 spouses and children of H-2A may not work.
H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker Visas
The H-2B program is specific to employers of foreign workers not working in the agricultural field. This visa is only available for work that is temporary in nature. To qualify for H-2A nonimmigrant classification, the U.S. employer or agent must: (1) offer a job that is of a temporary nature; (2) demonstrate that there are not sufficient U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work by conducting recruitment; (3) show that the employment of H-2B workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers; and (4) receive a temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Worker Visas are nonimmigrant visas.
H-2B petitions may only be approved for nationals of countries designated by the United States government. A national from a country not so designated may only be the beneficiary of an approved H-2B petition if the U.S. government determines that it is in the United States’ interest for him or her to be the beneficiary of such a petition.
Generally, H-2B classification may be granted for up to the period of time authorized on the temporary labor certification and may be extended in increments of 1 year. A new, valid temporary labor certification covering the requested time must accompany each extension request. The maximum period of stay in H-2B classification is 3 years.
There is a statutory cap on the total number of individuals who may receive the H-2B nonimmigrant classification during a fiscal year. Currently it is set at 66,000, with 33,000 allocated for employment beginning in the first half of the fiscal year (October 1 to March 31) and 33,000 allocated for employment beginning in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 to September 30).
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of H-2B workers are eligible for dependent visas in the H-4 classifications. H-4 spouses and children of H-2B employees may not work.
H-3 Trainee Visas
An H-3 Trainee Visa is a temporary, nonimmigrant visa for individuals to undertake job-related training in the United States that is not available in their home country. The training cannot be for graduate-level medical education or for the purpose of providing employment.
An approved trainee may be allowed to remain in the United States for the duration of the training program, not to exceed 2 years. Trainees’ spouses and children who are under the age of 21 may accompany them to the United States as H-4 nonimmigrants. However, H-4 nonimmigrants of H-3 trainees are not permitted to work in the United States.
J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa Program
The J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant cultural exchange visa issued by the U.S. Department of State. The objective of the J-1 Visa is to foster better understanding and acceptance between the people of the United States and other countries around the world through educational and cultural exchange programs. These programs are sponsored by an educational or other nonprofit institution, which must be accredited through the Exchange Visitor Program designated by the U.S. State Department. J-1 exchange visitors come to the United States to teach, study, receive training, or demonstrate special skills.
The spouse and children under 21 years of age may be eligible for a J-2 dependent visa depending on the specific program in which the J-1 visa holder is enrolled. In most cases, a J-2 visa holder can work in the United States provided he or she can demonstrate that the spouse’s income is not necessary to support the J-1 visa holder.
L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visas
In order for a company to qualify for this classification, the employer must have a qualifying relationship with a foreign company (parent company, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate) and currently be, or will be, doing business as an employer in the United States and in at least one other country directly or through a qualifying organization. Certain organizations may establish the required intracompany relationship in advance of filing individual L-1 petitions by filing a “blanket” petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. This process is faster and more cost effective for organizations seeking to continually transfer L-1 employees.
L-1A Visas for Executives and Managers
The L-1A nonimmigrant classification enables a U.S. employer to transfer an executive or manager from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States. Foreign companies seeking to establish a U.S. office may also send an executive or manager to the United States with the purpose of establishing one. Spouses holding L-2 visas are eligible to apply for work authorization.
L-1B Visas for Employees with Specialized Knowledge
The L-1B nonimmigrant classification enables qualifying U.S. employers to transfer a professional employee with specialized or advanced knowledge relating to the organization’s interests from one of its affiliated foreign offices to one of its offices in the United States.
The transferring employee may be accompanied or followed by his or her spouse and unmarried children who are under 21 years of age. Such family members may seek admission under L-2 nonimmigrant visas. Spouse holding L-2 visas are eligible to apply for work authorization.
Visas for Extraordinary Individuals
Certain visas are available for people that have demonstrated extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, and athletics.
O-1 Extraordinary Ability or Achievement Visas
The O-1 nonimmigrant visa is for individuals who possess extraordinary abilities in the field of science, art, education, business, or athletics, or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements. To qualify for an O-1 visa, the beneficiary must demonstrate extraordinary ability by sustained national or international acclaim and must be coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability. This category is reserved for individuals who have risen to the very top of their field of endeavor.
U.S. employers sponsoring a foreign national for a position requiring extraordinary ability must submit evidence that both the position requires an individual of extraordinary ability, the foreign national meets the qualifications of the O-1 category, and that the individual will continue to work in this area.
The spouse and children under age 21 of the O-1 visa holder will be eligible for derivative visas to accompany the employee on the U.S. assignment in the O-3 classification. The O-3 classification does not allow for U.S. employment.
R-1 Temporary Religious Worker Visas
An R-1 visa is for a foreign national entering the United States temporarily to be employed at least part time by a non-profit religious organization in the United States (or an organization which is affiliated with a religious denomination in the United States) to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation. A religious occupation is an activity that relates to a traditional religious function, such as a cantor or a liturgical worker. A religious vocation is associated with a formal, lifetime commitment to the religion as taken by a nun or a monk.
An R-1 religious worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for R-2 classification. R-2 dependents are not authorized to accept employment based on this visa classification.
The religious worker’s total period of stay in the United States in R-1 classification cannot exceed 5 years. USCIS counts only time spent physically in the United States in valid R-1 status toward the maximum period of stay.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The TN nonimmigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level. Professionals working in select occupations are permitted to enter the United States under the TN category, including but not limited to: accountants, engineers, lawyers, and scientists. TN Visas are nonimmigrant visas.
The spouse and children under the age of 21 may be eligible for TD nonimmigrant status. Dependents are not permitted to work while in the United States but are permitted to study.
TN visa holders are admitted for a period of up to 3 years and qualify for an unlimited number of 3 year extensions. TN holders must maintain a foreign residence abroad and intend to return to the foreign residence upon end of authorization period of stay.
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