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Work visas in the U.S.: Which one is right for me?

Maybe you were born outside of the United States, but you are interested in pursuing your professional or educational goals on American soil. There are several visa options available for you or your employer to consider based on the length of time and type of work that needs completed. 

The employment authorization process varies between four categories. 

Temporary, nonimmigrant employment

There are 22 separate classifications that exist for nonimmigrants who work in the United States on a temporary basis. Your prospective organization would file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to permit lawful employment, even if you do not plan to stay in the country after completing your work. 

Temporary business assignment

Perhaps your company has a partnership or a project in the United States, and they asked you to complete the job while staying in the country for the short-term duration. This could involve attending a conference, negotiating or consulting with associates in the U.S. Otherwise, you may qualify to come without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program which allows nationals of 35 countries to stay for up to 90 days. 

Student or exchange visit

Are you interested in advancing your education or cultural competency in the U.S.? Students may pursue an F visa to study full-time, and the “F” visa may also cover their spouses and children. Visitors pursing vocational studies may pursue an “M” visa, and students engaging in a cultural or academic exchange may be eligible for a “J” visa. 

Permanent work as an immigrant

If you wish to stay permanently in the United States and you have the knowledge and skillsets that an American company needs, the organization may pursue sponsorship and labor certification. You may be considered among one of five employment-based preferences based on your field of work, level of abilities, advanced degrees, or investments. 

Depending on the nature of your work and the expected duration of your stay, there is a visa option that can likely meet your needs. Understanding your eligibility and USCIS guidelines is your first step to success.