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What are the different types of work visas?

If you want to obtain permission to work in the United States, you can apply for either a temporary (nonimmigrant) or permanent (immigrant) visa. The type you need depends on the type of work you will do, how long you plan to stay in the U.S. and other factors.

Review the basics of both temporary and permanent work visas from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Temporary work visas

With a temporary visa, an employer sponsors you to stay in the U.S. for a specified amount of time. Some common categories of nonimmigrant visas include:

  • H-1C – Registered nurses to work in a health care shortage area
  • H-2A – Temporary workers in agriculture (farm)
  • H2B – Temporary nonagricultural workers
  • E1 – International trader from a treaty country
  • E2 – International investor from a treaty country

Permanent work visas

The USCIS issues permanent work visas to those who want to immigrate to the U.S. for work and seek permanent citizenship. You must qualify in one of five preference categories:

  • EB-1: First preferences for those with exceptional talents in education, athletics, business, art, or science; top-tier managers and executives; and noted researchers and professors
  • EB-2: Second preference for those with advanced degrees or outstanding arts, sciences, or business ability
  • EB-3: Third preference for skilled workers and other professionals
  • EB-4: Fourth preference for certain noncitizens including retired international employees, those who work at American posts of foreign service, and religious employees.
  • EB-5: Fifth preference for business investors who will start a new enterprise that creates jobs for at least 10 U.S. workers

Understanding these categories can help streamline the process of obtaining a work visa.