Work Visas Explained
The United States offers four types of work visas for individuals who wish to immigrate for work. These four visas are the H-1B, L-1, O and P-1. Each visa covers the variety of situations in which the immigrant may come to the United States for work.
Work Visas: H-1b
The United States holds an H-1B lottery twice a year. Any person who enters the H-1B lottery has a chance to win an H-1B visa. However, a company must petition an individual’s entry into the lottery.
Once they win the lottery, an H-1B visa holder lives and works within the United States under the sponsorship of the company. If the H-1B visa holder chooses to move to another company, the new company will need to request for the H-1B visa to be transferred to their care.
A benefit of the H-1B work visa is that under certain conditions, the company sponsoring the individual may request permanent residency for the immigrant.
Work Visas: L-1
An L-1 visa allows companies to relocate foreign employees to a U.S. subsidiary or parent company. This includes non-profit, religious, and charitable organizations. An employee who is eligible for the L-1 visa must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate, or branch office for at least 1 out of the last 3 years.
The L-1 visa is issued for intracompany transfers in managerial, executive positions or to those with special knowledge. Special knowledge is defined as having expert knowledge in specialized techniques, research or procedures.
Work Visas: O
The O visa is issued to people with an extraordinary ability in science, arts, education, athletics, business, and entertainment. The O-1A visa is for individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary ability in sciences, education, business, and athletics; while the O-1B visa focuses on individuals with extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry. An O-2 visa is for an individual who performs duties for the O-1 visa holder. An O-2 individual must have critical skills that a U.S. worker does not have as well as experience with the O-1 visa holder. The O-3 visa is for the dependents and spouse of an O-1 visa holder.
Work Visas: P
The P-1 visa is reserved for internationally recognized individuals in athletics, entertainment or performance who come to the U.S. to perform their services. Their spouse and minor children may accompany them on a P-4 visa.