What is the most common visa category for obtaining a visa to work in the United States?
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident law decisions. Finding trusted and reliable legal advice should be easy. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
The H-1B is the generally preferred work visa, when feasible. It is the common visa category for employees who work in specialized fields. A spin-off of the H-1B visa is the H-1B3 visa for certain fashion models. In order to qualify for an H-1B visa, you must demonstrate a specialized training and background to work in the field in which you seek employment. Common fields include science and medicine.
Obtaining an H-1B Visa
To obtain an H-1B work visa, you must complete Form I-129 (petition) and attach all required documentation and fees. The completed petition must be mailed to the service center designated in your area. Failing to properly complete the I-129 petition or mailing your petition to the wrong service center can result in a rejection of your petition. Timelines regarding when to file are also very specific. For example, you cannot petition more than 6 months before your employment in the U.S. is to begin. Despite the penalty for early filing, you still want to submit your petition for a work visa as soon as you are allowed because there are caps on how many workers may be allowed in to the United States through this program. The H-1B program places caps, or limits, on the number of work visas awarded. There are some general exceptions depending on who your intended employer is and any specific agreements you may have with your native country.
Other Types of Work Visas
If the cap for H-1B work visas has been met or you do not qualifiy for a specialized field, you may still qualify for other types of work visas. For example, an H-2A work visa permits an individual to enter the U.S. to obtain seasonal, agricultural employment. Regardless of whether you receive an H-2A or H-1B work visa, remember that both are considered a temporary visa. This means that you must leave the country at the end of your authorized period. If you want to remain in the United States, you will need to apply for a change in your status (i.e. a different type of visa), before your work visa has expired.