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I want to work to the U.S., what are my visa options?

By January 10, 2023Immigration
A group of three considering their options

If it has always been your dream to move and work in the U.S., this blog post will help you to decide what is the best visa category for you. This blog post will go over the E-2 investor visa, different employment visas and it will also analyze whether you need to have an offer of employment to come work in the U.S. and whether having a business in your home country can help you get a U.S. visa.

Are you willing to invest money in the U.S.?

If you are willing to invest a substantial amount of money in the U.S., an E-2 visa may be a great option for you. To qualify for an E-2 visa, you must be a national of an E-2 treaty visa country.  As mentioned in the headline, you must also be willing to make a substantial investment in the U.S. You can either start your own business or purchase an already existing business in the U.S. and get an E-2 visa. You must intend to employ at least 3 full time employees by year 5 of operations (this is so-called marginality requirement) and you must develop and direct the U.S. business.

While what is a “substantial investment” will depend mostly on an industry, the absolute minimum we usually recommend to invest is about 40,000 USD.

One advantage of the E-2 visa is that you don’t need any sponsorship from a U.S. employer – if the E2 visa is approved, you can come to the U.S. and start working for your own company, you don’t need a US employer to sponsor you.

Do you have a business in your home country?

If you have a business in your home country, you could potentially qualify for the following visa categories:

  • E-2 Visa (See above): While it’s not required that you have an entity abroad for an E-2 visa (you only need to have an entity in the U.S.), it could definitely be helpful for your case as you could show your prior entrepreneurial experience and if the business in your home country is successful and has a lot of employees, the reviewing officer could make an assumption that the US business will be successful as well.
  • E-1 Visa: An E-1 visa is limited for nationals of E-1 visa treaty countries. To qualify for an E-1 visa, you would need to show that there is a substantial trade of goods or services between the U.S. and your home country and the majority of your international trade is between the U.S. and your home country. The advantage of an E-1 visa over the E-2 visa is that you don’t need to make an investment in the U.S. to qualify for an E1 visa and you don’t have to have employees in the U.S. (but this would of course be very helpful for your petition). You could either have an entity in your home country or you could set up an entity in the U.S. for an E1 visa.
  • L-1 Visa: If you own a business abroad (or you are employed by a company abroad as a manager, executive, or specialized skills employee), you could potentially qualify for an L-1 visa. To qualify for an L-1 visa, the US petitioner will need to show that there is a qualifying relationship between the U.S. and the foreign entity (e.g. parent, subsidiary, branch, affiliate). You will also need to show that you were employed abroad by the foreign entity for at least one year in the most recent 3 years and that you are coming to the US to work as a manager, executive, or specialized skills employee. Please note that the U.S. company would need to sponsor you for an L-1 visa (file an immigration petition on your behalf), you cannot sponsor yourself as an individual (but if you own the US entity, that’s okay and the US entity would be the petitioner).

Do you have an offer for employment from a U.S. employer?

If you have an offer of employment from a U.S. employer, you could qualify for the following visas:

  • TN Visa: This visa is only limited for Mexican or Canadian nationals. To qualify for a TN visa , you must be applying under one of the professions listed in the NAFTA (e.g. lawyer, accountant, architect, engineer, interior designer, dentist, or occupational therapist). You must have an offer of employment from a U.S. employer, but a TN visa does not require a traditional sponsorship (this means that the US employer does not have to file a petition with a Department of Labor/USCIS, (unless you are in the U.S. and the petition is being filed as a change/extension of status, then a petition would need to be filed with USCIS). The foreign national can simply apply for a visa at the border (Canadian nationals) or at a Consulate (Mexican nationals), and generally the only document the foreign national needs from the employer is the original signed employer letter. Please see a list of documents you should bring to the interview here. TN visa is a great option as foreign nationals can usually get the TN visa pretty fast (especially Canadians).
  • H-1B visa: If you have a Bachelor’s (or Master’s/Doctorate degree) in a specialty occupation and the proposed job in the U.S. is in the same field as your degree, you could qualify for an H-1B visa. You can stay in the U.S. on an H1b visa for up to 6 years. Because each year more people apply for an H-1B visa than there is a quota how many H1b visas can be issued each fiscal year, the government runs what is so called H-1B lottery every March/April. If your H1b registration is selected in the lottery, that does not mean you are automatically approved, but it gives your employer a chance to file the actual H1b petition. There is one category of employers (so called H-1B cap exempt employers) who don’t have to go through the lottery process – this means that these employers could sponsor you for an H1b at any time. H-1B visa is a great option if you at least have a Bachelor’s degree and if you found an employer in the US willing to sponsor you for an h1b visa. The disadvantage is that unless you found a cap-exempt employer, you would need to go through the lottery process and even if you are selected, the whole process will take several months.
  • E-3 Visa: E-3 visa is very similar to the H1b visa, but is only limited to Australian nationals. There is usually no lottery for an E3 visa, so if you are an Australian national, applying for an E3 visa is a great option. Also, applying for an E3 visa at a Consulate (or thought USCIS) is much faster than going through the H1b process, so if you are an Australian national, have at least a Bachelor’s degree and the job in the US is in the same field as your degree, E3 visa may be a great option for you.

Do you have an extraordinary ability? Are you in top of your industry?

If you have an extraordinary ability in sciences, education, business, or athletics and you have risen to the top of your field you could qualify for an O-1A visa.

If you sustained a national or international acclaim in the field of arts (or extraordinary achievement in motion picture/television industry), you could qualify for an O-1B visa.

O-1A and O-1B petitions are very document intensive petitions and you will need to submit probably hundreds of pages  of documents describing your accomplishments. These visas are usually really limited to the people who are in the top of their industries so you should talk with an experienced immigration attorney to see if you qualify for this visa.

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