As the world’s largest market and the land of opportunities, the U.S. attracts many foreign businesses seeking to grow. These businesses often have a difficult time finding qualified workers to fill critical and unique jobs.
In many cases, foreign businesses need to hire non-U.S. nationals for their U.S. operations. Unfortunately, they find that U.S. immigration law is very complex and ever-changing. Annual quotas and other intricacies of the system make the timing of applications and providing accurate and thorough documentation critical to success.
Business immigration lawyers can guide these businesses in overcoming the challenges of hiring and onboarding foreign talent and transferring key employees to work in the United States. Our goal is to help foreign businesses and foreign workers comply with U.S. immigration law and thrive in their expansion to the U.S. market.
U.S. WORK VISAS FOR FOREIGN NATIONALS
Here are a few of the most commonly used visas available for hiring foreign nationals to work in the United States. Each may prove valuable for different stages of expansion, types of workers or job functions.
H-1B Visa: Specialty Occupation Worker. The H-1B visa is the most sought-after work visa for professionals. It is an employer-sponsored visa that allows U.S. businesses to employ foreign workers in professional occupations that require the application of specialized knowledge. The occupation must require a bachelor’s or higher degree (or equivalent), such as accounting, computer programming, engineering, or architecture.
H-1B visa holders may request to work in the United States for three years and then request an extension for an additional three-year period, allowing them to remain for a total of six years.
While there are some exceptions, the majority of H-1B visa petitions are subject to a cap. The window for submission opens on the first business day of April and closes once the cap is met, which usually occurs within several days. It does not reopen until the following year, so timing and early preparation is crucial.
L-1 Visa: Intracompany Transferee. The L-1 visa is a useful and effective vehicle for multinational companies to establish or expand their presence in the U.S. and to bring in qualified personnel. Due to the current limited number of H-1B visas, the L-1 is a preferred visa to transfer executives, managers, and workers with specialized knowledge to the United States.
It allows the transfer of employees of a company with offices both abroad and in the United States, or a company with the intention of opening a new office in the United States while maintaining offices abroad.
Typically, the employee must have worked abroad for the company or a related company on a full-time basis for at least one year prior.
O-1 Visa: Individual with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement. The O-1 visa is especially helpful for highly accomplished athletes, managers, executives, scientists, professors, physicians, artists, and other top performers. This visa allows individuals with exceptional talent in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics to work in the United States.
The applicant must show proof of their national or international acclaim by providing documentation showing their achievements, such as awards, nominations, published works, prizes, or contracts. This is an employment-based visa with an initial three-year validity and multiple possible extensions.
P-1 Visa: Internationally Recognized Athletes or Entertainers. The P-1 visa is available for individual athletes, athletic teams, and established entertainment groups that have achieved international recognition (i.e., have achieved above-average success and recognition in more than one country) in their field.
In some situations, the O-1 visa may be preferable to the P-1 visa. While both categories could apply, each offers its own strategic advantage. For example, the O-1 visa might provide a stronger path to a green card for athletes; however, it has a much higher evidentiary standard.
WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES!
Like the United States, the team I work with is proudly made up of immigrants. We welcome foreign businesses and foreign nationals who seek success here, just as we have. Together, we continue the tradition of a country that was built with the talent and hard work of immigrants from around the world.
As a partner on our clients’ journey, we look forward to helping them navigate the unique challenges and opportunities of entering the U.S. market, so they can thrive and succeed. Giselle Carson