It is a common misconception that as long as you have a job offer from a U.S. employer, you can obtain a work visa to enter the U.S. to pursue that job. In reality, the U.S. immigration system makes many distinctions that turn on the nature of the job, including whether the work performed can be categorized as “professional” work, “skilled” work, or “unskilled” work. Depending on what category your job falls into, the pathways open to you will differ.
Here are several strategies you can consider if you seek to enter the U.S. to perform “unskilled” labor that requires less than 2 years of training or experience, for example, construction laborers, retail salesperson, truck drivers, bartenders, etc.
See Post 1 in the series for the H2B non-immigrant visa option. In this post we will look at the EB3 permanent residency sponsorship option. See Post 2 in the series for the EB-3 permanent residency option.
Work authorization through spouse with a non-immigrant visa – E-2, L-1, J-1 Spouses
This strategy may not work for everyone, but sometimes a much quicker solution can be found outside the box. If you are an unskilled worker seeking to get authorization to work in the U.S., sometimes entering the United States as a derivative applicant to your spouse and obtaining an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) may be the quickest way.
For example, if you are a Canadian truck driver and you have a spouse who is a manager or an employee with specialized knowledge at a Canadian firm with a branch in the U.S., the spouse can work with his or her company to get transferred to the U.S. company on a L1A or L1B visa. You can enter the U.S. with your spouse and apply for an employment authorization card, which will enable you to work with any U.S. company.
If your spouse is an entrepreneur and have the ability and willingness to invest and operate a business in the United States, the E-2 visa is also an option that will give spouses an ability to work in the United States.
Another lesser known fact is that spouses of J-1 visa holders can work. J-1 visas allow a foreign national to enter the U.S. under an exchange visitor program for designated institutions and programs as professors, scholars, research assistants, trainees, au pair, etc. Note that there are specific restrictions that come with J-1 status, however, and your income as a J-2 spouse cannot be used to support the J-1 nonimmigrant. Consult an attorney for detailed guidance.
Spouses of H1B and TN Visa holders currently do not have the option to work.
It is important to note that not all nonimmigrant work visas allow spouses to work in the U.S. For example, spouses of H1B visa holders cannot apply for work authorization unless it is an exceptional case where the H1B holder is already undergoing the sponsorship process for a green card.
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