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Everything you need to know about US work visas

Getting a work visa in the United States is one of the ways to legally live in this civilized state and get a decent salary. Illustration ForumDaily

Getting a work visa in the United States is one of the ways to legally live in this civilized state and get a decent salary. Illustration ForumDaily

A work visa is one of the ways to get to the US, earn good money here, and in some cases even get a green card. ForumDaily understood what types of work visas exist, who, apart from programmers, can rely on them, and where to find a job that will allow to move to America.

At access

Alexey Zelenin moved on a H1B work visa from Russia to Hollywood, Florida, nine months ago. Now he is a software developer in a retail company. At home, 18 worked for years.

Prior to moving to the United States, he worked remotely for several years with an employer who decided to make him a work visa. True, the process of obtaining a visa from Alexei was delayed - the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) demanded an additional set of documents.

“The second set of documents had to be prepared in order to prove that a non-IT company really needs an IT specialist of my level,” explains Alexey. “Surprisingly, we were in the quota for obtaining a work visa the first time.”

Since Alexei already had a good relationship with the employer, he immediately applied for a green card for him.

Alexey was invited to the USA by an employer with whom he had worked for a long time. Photos from the personal archive

Alexey’s current job is fine with him, but even if an employee doesn’t like something, he is sure, you can change a company without problems.

“If the relationship between the employee and the employers suddenly becomes not very good or the offer is better, you can make a transfer. Another employer can submit the same set of documents as for a regular H1B visa, only there will be no quota for the number of issued visas, ”says Alexey.

He shares his observations: a foreigner in the United States is paid somewhat less than an American with a local education, but not lower than the average salary of similar specialists in the region.

Types of work visas

H1B, along with J-1 and L1, are the most common work visas. However, only the list is not limited to them. There are other types of work visas that specialists of certain professions can receive - H1B3, H2A, H2B, O and R.

  • J-1 visa (internship)

Non-immigrant visa, which allows students and representatives of certain specialties (teachers, doctors, researchers, etc.) to participate in the exchange program and thus gain experience in the United States. And this is not only about the well-known Work and Travel, but also a number of others - Au Pair Course, Camp counselor, Internship usa, Trainee usa and so on.

Detailed requirements for J-1 visa recipients published on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

  • H1B (for qualified professionals)

A visa that allows an American company to hire a foreign specialist for up to six years. Under the category H1B, IT workers, engineers, and academics usually fall into the category. A visa is not immigration, but with it, you can get a green card.

С requirements H1B visa recipients are available on the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website.

  • L1 (translation specialists)

This work visa provides an opportunity for companies operating in both America and other countries to transfer their employees of different qualifications to a permanent job in the United States. This visa is issued for up to 7 years (for managers) and on 5 years for ordinary employees.

  • H1B3 (work visa for professional models)

This visa suitable for models that have extensive experience and have achieved national or international recognition. To confirm your high status in the professional field, you will need publications in well-known print media, prizes and awards for outstanding achievements, work as a model for recognizable employers (famous designers, photographers, sponsors), as well as high salaries.

  • H2A (for seasonal agricultural workers)

This Work Visa issued to specialists for temporary or seasonal work in agriculture for a maximum of one year. Specialists applying for this visa are required to have relevant work experience and receive a job offer from an employer in the United States. Most often, the employee is provided housing and meals. H2A visa applications are usually offered in the southern states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

  • H2B (for seasonal workers of different professions)

This work visa assumes seasonal work on a contract lasting from 6 to 10 months with the possibility of extension to the 3 year. Work can be both qualified and unqualified. Usually, American companies are looking for service personnel to work in the landscape industry, in the field of hotel and restaurant services, as well as to work in amusement parks and golf clubs.

  • O (for persons with extraordinary abilities)

O type visa can get a person with outstanding abilities in business, science, art, education or sports, as well as the one who is successful in the field of film and television industry. Initially, this visa is issued for a period of up to three years with the possibility of extension for one year an unlimited number of times. The requirements for an applicant for a visa are as follows: receiving international awards, being widely known in the world or a particular country, data on achievements in their professional field (membership in a professional association, documents on receiving awards, authorship in industry publications and so on).

  • R (for religious figures)

Category R visa issued to persons entering the United States to work in religious organizations on a temporary basis for up to 5 years. Initially, you can enter for a period of no more than 30 months (depending on need), and after that there is an opportunity to extend the stay for another 30 months. To be eligible for a visa R, a candidate must be a member of a sponsoring religious denomination for at least two years at the time of application.

IMPORTANT: To obtain most of these visas (with the exception of H1B3 and O), a foreign specialist needs a real employer who will file documents for him and pay all state fees.

Visa Leader

H1B is the most common among work visas. Although this is a nonimmigrant visa, however, as mentioned above, it allows you to get a green card over time. For this reason, H1B is called a dual purpose visa.

The applicant may receive such a visa on 3 of the year with the possibility of extending more than 6 years (this moment is latest innovation in immigration law.)

The main requirements that are put forward to the applicant for H1B visa: higher specialized education and 3 years of work experience. If there is no higher education, you need 12 years of experience in your field.

The employer, in turn, must prove that he cannot find a US citizen or a green card holder for this job. In addition, according to the law, only an American employer can apply for a potential employee, and only he must pay all government fees and lawyer services.

However, getting H1B is not easy. There is a quota for visas of this type - 65 thousand for the whole of the United States, plus 20 for thousands of visas can be submitted to holders of a scientific master's degree obtained in the United States. At the same time 6 800 visas from 65 thousand are allocated to residents of Singapore and Chile, according to special US trade agreements with these states. If they do not select all 6 800 visas, then the balance will be returned to the total. In addition, for example, in 2014, according to New York Times, 70% of all visas of this type were received by specialists from India - employers submitted the most applications for them.

Therefore, the applicant must not just meet the high professional requirements - he must be lucky enough to be included in the number of these 85 thousands, because the number of applications, as a rule, is always much more. Of course, the employer must file petitions as quickly as possible - their reception begins on April 1 every year.

Unapproved petitions are returned along with fees. Petitions submitted later are automatically rejected. Already on October 1, an employee who is in the H1B visa quota must begin work on a contract when he first receives a work visa.

Certain visa applicants can get a H1B visa in excess of the quota. We are talking about experts, sponsored by universities and charitable organizations in the United States.

The main stages of obtaining a H1B visa are as follows:

  1. You find an employer who is ready to issue you documents, provide a workplace and wait for October October 1 when you can get to work.
  2. The employer collects the documents and petitions the US Department of Labor.
  3. If you are in the quota and your petition is approved, then the documents go to the Immigration Service, where the registration for the H1B visa ends.
  4. You get a H1B visa and enter the country to work for a specific employer.
  5. If you want to change the employer, then make the appropriate request to the immigration service and send a petition for transfer. In this case, the petition is no longer subject to quota, and you can start working in a new organization not from October 1, but immediately after the paperwork is completed.

The road to the US is open for biologists

Biologist Irina Kovlyagina came from Russia to the city of Baltimore, Maryland, on a H1B work visa three years ago. After graduating from the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Novosibirsk State University, she began to look for work abroad on sites like - filed documents in laboratories around the world.

“I played the spirit of adventure! Well, research work abroad is a very popular topic among research workers, ”says Irina

In the process of searching, Irina sent potential employers a resume, a cover letter to it, a list of publications and contact information for teachers and professors who should have been consulted.

Luck smiled at her at Johns Hopkins University, which became her first job in the United States. Preparation of documents required for entry into the country and obtaining a work permit, as it should be by law, the employer was engaged. There were no intrigues with the quota, because for universities and other non-profit organizations there are simplified rules for applying: you can apply for a visa at any time of the year, and there are no deadlines.

“The employer asked me for documents confirming the required level of education. At that time, I spent about $ 200-300 on translating and confirming my diploma (the procedure for equating an education certificate with its American counterpart). All other expenses were borne by the university. Lawyers from the international department prepared documents that could help consider the case in my favor. The whole process took 2-3 of the month, ”says the girl.

Irina believes that the work on the H1B visa is in some way similar to a marriage. Photos from the personal archive

Irina believes that the work on the H1B visa is in some way similar to a marriage. Photos from the personal archive

At Johns Hopkins University, Irina worked for about two years and then moved to the University of Maryland. The second time the execution of all documents took no more than a month. And the very next day after finishing work at Johns Hopkins University, Irina began working at a new place.

“Working visa is serious. In fact, this is a marriage. To come to America on a work visa, not to a high position, but as an ordinary employee, you must really want to live in the USA, you need to burn this idea. After all, with a work visa you become a person with limited mobility. Someone is satisfied with this concept, but it is hard for me. Yes, and the work is difficult to change, again you need to go through the whole process with documents. In other words, even if you do not like something, you will have to endure, ”admits Irina.

From school to work

In 1994, sixteen-year-old Nikolai Sergeev on an F1 study visa arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio, to study as a psychotherapist. The training lasted for seven years: four years of undergraduate, two years of magistracy and a year for additional certification and obtaining a license. After that, Nikolay took part in the program of additional practical training, which allows the student to work on a F1 visa for a whole year in his specialty.


Nikolai received the profession of psychotherapist in the United States. Photos from the personal archive

“I found a job in a non-profit public consultation center that deals with the mental health of the population. I asked the employer to give me a H1B visa to stay in the USA and continue to work with them. In the consulting center, we never encountered this, but agreed, given that I myself found a lawyer and paid for it. At that time, it cost me somewhere in $ 1000, ”recalls Nikolay.

He worked in the center for almost 6 years - he started as a psychotherapist, and in the last year he managed a department of psychotherapists. After that, he got a job at a boarding school for teenagers with psychological problems at the University of Chicago, who petitioned him for a green card. In 2005, Nikolai got it.

Air of freedom

Roman Kuprov has been living in the US for 14 for years and is committed to exploring the American air. He came to get an education on the F1 visa in Salt Lake City and after graduation he remained in practice. One and a half years after the start of the program, the employer issued him a work visa H1B as a research assistant. Now Roman is engaged in analyzing the composition of air pollution, its sources and so on.

Roman got a job in the USA, having received an education on the F1 study visa. Photos from the personal archive

Roman got a job in the USA, having received an education on the F1 study visa. Photos from the personal archive

“This year I have a visa renewed. For the first time, the employer paid federal payments, and I paid for a lawyer. This year, when the visa was renewed, the employer paid for everything in full, ”says Roman.

Where to look for a job

In a word, most different specialists are needed in the USA, despite the fact that, according to H1B, IT workers mostly leave. A complete list of possible fields and professions can be found. here.

If your specialty is in demand in the USA and you meet the above requirements, you can search for vacancies on one of the job sites:

  1. MSDNjobs - vacancies for IT specialists
  2. Monster - vacancies for different specialists
  3. Careerbuilder - vacancies for different specialists
  4. Techfretch - jobs for technical specialties
  5. - work in the US government
  6. Desiopt и Myvisajobs - job sites from employers who sponsor a H1B work visa and green card
  7. Idealist, Naceweb - internship vacancies

work in the USA Foreign workers Educational program Work Visa visa H1B Editor's Choice

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