(H, L, O, P, & Q Visas)
Will you be working in the United States? If so, please review the online pamphlet regarding your rights as an employee
Under U.S. immigration law, certain business activities can be conducted using the ordinary tourist/business (B-1/2) visa, or on the Visa Waiver Program if the requirements are met. This includes attending business meetings, purchasing property, negotiating and signing contracts, gathering and fulfilling orders, completing market surveys, attending conferences or short training courses and so on. Much depends on the nature of the activity, source of income and, to some extent, the length of stay.
In general, persons intending to work in the U.S. must obtain a temporary work permit (approved by the U.S. United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), as indicated on Form I-797 or other approved petition) and be in possession of the appropriate visa prior to entering the U.S.
The new E3 visa allows Australian nationals to work in specialty occupations in the U.S. and has different requirements from the other working visas covered here.
Setting up a business in the U.S. has special requirements. Please see our Treaty Trader and Treaty Investors page for further information.
To work legally in the U.S., non-residents must first locate an employer or sponsor who files a petition (Form I-129) with USCIS in the U.S. The petition must be approved before a visa application can be considered. All applicants attending an interview for a nonimmigrant petition-based visa (H, L, O, P and Q visas) must present the receipt number of an approved I-129 or I-797 petition. These petitions are now electronically verified. Applicants should expect a minimum period of 2-3 business days for petitions to be verified before a visa can be issued.
Applying for the Visa
See Applying for a Nonimmigrant Visa for instructions on how and where to submit your application.
In addition to the standard requirements, your application must include the following:
- Notice of approval from USCIS (Form I-797) or the DHS Petition Receipt Number;
- Applicants for blanket L visas must provide three copies of Form I-129 work petition and supporting documents;
In addition to the above items, applicants may be asked to present evidence and documents that establishes their purpose and job qualifications. Applicants may be asked to submit documentation of a residence abroad to which they will return after their work assignment is completed in the U.S.
The spouse and minor children (under age 21) of the principal applicant are eligible to apply for visas as dependents. Defacto marriages are not accepted for U.S. visa purposes. Each dependent must complete a separate application and submit separate processing and other visa fees.
There are two parts to the nonimmigrant visa fee: the application fee and the issuance fee.
Also Keep in Mind
Applicants should remember that the following visa categories do not allow for permanent employment in the U.S. nor do they assure you a permanent residence in the U.S. These visas allow individuals to live for a designated period in the U.S. and to work at specific jobs. Dependents will also be able to join the principal worker and to study (but, not to work) during the duration of their stay in the U.S. Although the period of employment can be several years, the understanding in all these visa categories is that employee and the family will leave the U.S. after the employment is completed.
Any nonimmigrant visa category, including these work categories, are not intended to be used in lieu of the proper immigration visa if applicants plan to live permanently in the U.S. If applicants are seeking to move permanently to the U.S. and obtain “green cards,” they should ask for the information sheet on “Immigrating to the U.S.”
E3 Specialty Work Visa for Australian Nationals
This new visa has different requirements from the other working visas listed below, please check the requirements.
Temporary Workers & Trainees (H-visa)
Skilled workers of most industries can qualify if petitions have been approved on their behalf by USCIS Part of the USCIS approval process may require the prospective employer to file certifications with the U.S. Department of Labor. Workers in this category can include nurses, foreign physicians (who have passed a federal licensing examination), fashion models, defense workers, specialty occupations, agricultural workers, and their dependents. Certain of these categories have numerical limits.
“Trainees” and their dependents can also qualify under the H-visa category to participate in a structured program with professionally trained staff. The H-program provides practical training away from a primarily academic or vocational institution. It is intended to give applicants opportunities to obtain on-the-job experience in the U.S. at work which is not primarily to provide productive employment.
Intra-company Transferee (L-visa)
This classification allows executives, managers and certain specialties to transfer to jobs within the company but which are located in the U.S. For example, the head office of IBM wants the district manager at Sydney to work in the Los Angeles office.
The applicant for an L-visa must have been employed with the company in an executive or managerial capacity continuously one year within the three years preceding the application for a visa and must be in possession of a petition approved by the USCIS. In most cases, the petition will indicate the name of the principal applicant and the period of stay in the U.S. In many instances, however, the company may provide a “blanket” petition, endorsed by the responsible company official, that can be presented with the application for a visa.
Extraordinary Ability (O-visa)
This category applies to persons of extraordinary ability in science, the arts, education, business, and athletics, or who have extraordinary achievement in motion picture and television production. It also includes the applicant’s support personnel. The applicant must present an approved petition or notification that has been approved by USCIS
Certain athletes, entertainers, and artists who are intending to perform in the U.S. are covered in this category. For example, baseball players working in the minor leagues and professional musical groups are included here. As with other work categories, applicants must be beneficiaries of petitions approved on their behalf by the USCIS
International Cultural Exchange Program (Q-visa)
This applies to participants in international exchange programs (usually government-sponsored) which provides practical training, employment and the sharing of history, culture and traditions of the applicants country of nationality. Applicants must be beneficiaries of USCIS approved petitions. More information.
There are a number of visa categories that allow applicants to work. Most of them require the prospective employer, agent, impresario or sponsor to file a petition with the USCIS in the U.S. The appropriate petition must be approved before a consular officer will even consider an application for a working visa. The applicant’s agent can approach the USCIS office in the U.S. having jurisdiction where work is being considered. The agent can arrange for the appropriate petitions to be approved and the notifications forwarded to the applicant for submission with the standard visa application. The USCIS office can advise the agent of its procedures and which visa category is the most appropriate for your prospective employment.
For other information related to working in the U.S., ask for Journalist I-visa and Exchange Visitors J-visa.