Work Visas

What Is a Work Visa?

As an employer, you've heard about work visas. But what are they specifically? And how can your business meet work visa requirements to hire foreign employees? It's a tricky subject area, but we'll tell you everything your company needs to know about work visas.

Non-immigrant workers are a legitimate source of labor for small business owners.

But the US government is naturally very interested in regulating the process by which American companies hire non-immigrant labor.

The required form for hiring foreign visitors to the US is commonly called a work visa. It's more accurately a Form I-129 (Petition for Non-Immigrant Workers), a form that employers are required to file with the USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services) office.

Form I-129 gives employers the approval necessary to hire non-immigrant labor. It also describes the specific work visa category under which the individual will be working in the US. Work visa categories vary based on the purpose of the individual's visit and the type of work they will be doing for your company while they're here.

For information about how to properly complete a Form I-129, visit the USCIS website. In the meantime, here are the visa categories that apply to small business employers:

H Visas

H visas are common and represent the largest segment of Form I-129 applicants. The workers covered under this visa category include educated professionals, medical workers, agricultural laborers, academic trainees, temporary workers, and the family members of qualified H visa applicants.

L Visas

L visas are reserved for company transfers. To qualify as an L visa candidate, the

individual must have been employed by the company in their home country for at least a year and the US-based company that is hiring them must be a subsidiary. Also, L visas are restricted to upper-level employees, i.e. executives and managers.

O Visas

The O visa designation applies to non-immigrant foreign workers who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, athletics, or film.

P Visas

P visas are given to individuals who will be performing in the United States on a temporary basis. The USCIS defines these performers as athletes, musicians, artists and entertainers.

Q Visas

Finally, the Q visa category applies to individual who are working the US as part of a cultural exchange program that shares the history, traditions, and culture of the foreign country.

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