How to apply for a U.S. work visa in 2024

Toluwani Omotesho


The United States (U.S.) is a popular choice among recent graduates and professionals looking for opportunities to start or advance their careers. However, to work legally in the U.S., you’ll need a work visa or work permit, depending on the purpose and duration of your stay and the type of employment.

Difference between a work visa and a work permit

The work visa and work permit are both legal documents that allow foreigners to work in the U.S., but there are some key differences between them, which include:

  • A work visa application must be made before entering the U.S., while work permits can be issued when you are already in the country.
  • The eligibility criteria for a U.S. work visa are more complex as you may be restricted to a specific employer and job role, but work permits give you job flexibility subject to your immigration status.

In today’s post, we’ll guide you through the different types of U.S. work visas and how to apply for one.

Types of U.S. work visas

There are generally two types of U.S. work visas:

  • Temporary (non-immigrant) visas
  • Permanent (immigrant) visas

Also read: Your Ultimate Guide to Getting an E.U. Work Visa in 2024

Temporary work visas:

A temporary work visa allows you to work in the U.S. for a specific period. To extend your stay with this visa, you’d have to apply for an extension of stay and get approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Different types of temporary U.S. work visas are categorized based on several factors, including the type of work, skill level, and field. Some categories of temporary U.S. work visas are:

  • H-1B: This is open to applicants in “specialty occupations.” Examples of specialty occupations include I.T. professionals like software engineers or systems analysts, healthcare professionals, financial analysts, and civil engineers, among others. The H-1B visa is highly sought after because U.S. employers typically offer holders competitive salaries and benefits, and it’s often viewed as a stepping stone to [permanent residency.]( temporary US visas do,maximum stay of six years.)
  • L-1: this visa type allows companies to transfer employees in managerial, executive, or specialized positions from their foreign offices to a U.S. branch. To qualify for an L-1 visa, the employee must have worked with the employer for at least one year continuously within the past three years before the visa application.
  • O-1: this is for people with extraordinary abilities who have been recognized at the highest level in their fields, which could be in sciences, arts, business, or education. Applicants for the O-1 visa must show evidence of their ability by providing documentation of awards, honors, publications, letters of recommendation from experts, or press and media coverage. O-1 visa holders are eligible to stay in the U.S. for [three years]( O-1 visa may,indefinitely in one-year increments.), possibly renewing indefinitely.
  • TN: this specialized visa allows Canadian and Mexican professionals to work in the U.S. under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The TN visa is limited to certain professions, including accountants, scientists, engineers, dentists, lawyers, graphic designers, and more. The TN visa is valid for up to three years and can be renewed indefinitely.

Also read: Applying for a U.S. Student Visa: A Detailed Guide for 2024

Permanent work visas:

Permanent visas, immigrant visas, or green cards permanently allow you to work in the U.S. Similar to the temporary work visa, it also has different categories, which include:

  • EB-1: this is for people with extraordinary abilities in science, arts, business, or education who have risen to the top of their field, and while applying, you must show evidence of this.
  • EB-2: this is reserved for professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional abilities who can significantly benefit the US
  • EB-3: This visa is for professionals with a bachelor’s degree and skilled and unskilled workers with at least two years of job experience.
  • EB-4: the EB-4 is for “special immigrants” such as religious workers, employees of U.S. foreign service posts, certain broadcasters and healthcare workers, and people who have given information about criminal groups.
  • EB-5: this is reserved for immigrant investors looking to invest in American businesses that will create jobs for U.S. workers**.**

How to Apply for a U.S. Work Visa:

To apply for a temporary work visa, you’ll need first to get a job offer from a U.S. employer offering job sponsorship. Your employer must file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and once it’s approved, you’ll receive a Notice of Action, Form I-797. After this, you can follow these steps:

  • Complete your online nonimmigrant application, Form DS-160
  • Gather and prepare the necessary documents ahead of your visa interview.
  • Schedule an interview at the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate
  • Attend the interview; you might be asked questions relating to your background, qualifications, and job offer.
  • Wait for visa approval. The wait times generally vary by location and visa category.

However, applying for a permanent U.S. work visa is slightly different and more complex. The steps are:

  • The U.S. employer must obtain a labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to show that there are no qualified workers in the U.S. for the position you’re being hired for.
  • Once the labor certification form is approved, the employer files an immigration petition with USCIS.
  • The petition is assigned a priority date based on when it was filed.
  • This is followed by a waiting period for visa availability that depends on the type of immigrant visa being applied for and your country of origin.
  • Once a visa is available, you can apply for adjustment of status by filling out Form I-485.
  • If approved, you officially become a lawful permanent U.S. resident (or green card holder).

For more information about U.S work visa requirements and processes please visit the USCIS website.

Wrapping up

We hope this post answers your questions about U.S. work visas and wish you all the best with your application! Don't forget, with a Grey US bank account, you can handle USD transactions easily and securely. Sign up now to get started.

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