All professionals who plan to work in their field of university study should be eligible for the H1-B visa, provided there are visas available. Please inquire as to exceptions for holders of a U.S. Masters Degree and employees of nonprofit research organizations. L Visas are available for employees transferring from an affiliate or subsidiary of the employing company to a U.S. branch. Please inquire as to requirements. The O-1 visa is available for those professionals who have risen to the top of their fields, as shown by awards, distinctions, leading roles, judgment of the work of others, publications, presentations and high salary. Please see “Trainees” for young professionals who want to come practice their craft as they train in a U.S. company.
Preference Categories & Visa Numbers: People who want to become immigrants based on family are divided into “preferences” (categories), and if their immigrant visa petition is approved, they must wait for an immigrant visa number to become available according to the preference system. An exception exists for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, which includes parents, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21, who do not have to wait for an immigrant visa number to become available once the immigrant visa petition filed for them is approved. An immigrant visa number will be immediately available for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.
The relatives in the remaining categories must wait for a visa number to become available according to the following preferences:
- First Preference: Unmarried, adult sons and daughters of U.S. citizens. Adult means 21 years of age or older.
- Second Preference: Spouses of lawful permanent residents, their unmarried children (under twenty-one), and the unmarried sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents.
- Third Preference: Married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
- Fourth Preference: Brothers and sisters of adult U.S. citizens.
Once USCIS receives your visa petition,I-130,Petition for Alien Relative, it will be approved or denied. USCIS will notify the person who filed the visa petition if the visa petition is approved. USCIS will then send the approved visa petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, where it will remain until an immigrant visa number is available.
Because the number of immigrant visa numbers that are available each year is limited, you may not get an immigrant visa number immediately after your immigrant visa petition is approved. In some cases, it could take several years. For more information, see The Preference System and Immigrant Visa Numbers (which will also explain how to estimate when a visa number will be available).
The National Visa Center will notify you, the foreign national, when the visa petition is received and again when an immigrant visa number is available. You do not need to contact the National Visa Center, unless you change your address or there is a change in your personal situation, or that of your relative, that may affect eligibility for an immigrant visa, such as reaching age 21, marriage, divorce, or death of a spouse.
The J-1 visa is available to individuals participating in a recognized international exchange program. The purpose of exchange visitors visa is to promote cultural and educational exchange between the U.S. and other countries. In general, the goal of the program is that foreign citizens will come to the U.S. to share their cultural experience and learn about U.S. culture, and, in turn, take their experiences back to their home country as a way of improving international relations.
There are various programs to facilitate J-1 sponsorship in different fields of endeavors. The J-1 visa may be available for Professors and Research Scholars, Short-term Scholars, Trainees, College or University Students, Teachers, Secondary School Students, Graduate Medical Education or Training, International and Government Visitors, Camp Counselors, Summer Work/Travel Students and Au Pairs. A J-1 visa is obtained by applying through an approved sponsoring organization that can be a school, company, public or private organization approved by the U.S. Department of State. The sponsor will issue a Form IAP-66 that is used by the foreign national to obtain a J visa.
Some exchange programs permit trainees to obtain paid on-the-job training and internships with firms, institutions, and agencies. Under this category, the J-1 trainee is usually admitted to the U.S. for a period from 3 to 18 months. Often, the company or its attorneys will coordinate with J program sponsors to acquire J-1 trainee visas.
The J-1 student and researcher program allows the J-1 visa holder to accept training in the U.S. J-1 students are generally admitted for the length of their educational studies in the U.S. J-1 students often receive a period of authorized practical training (18 months for undergraduate and pre-doctoral training and 36 months for post-doctoral training) similar to F-1 students. The authorization for such employment is issued by the J program sponsor and does not require prior INS approval.
The J-2 dependent spouse of a J-1 visa holder may qualify for work authorization as long as it is demonstrated that the spouse’s income is not necessary to support the J-1 visa holder.
Home Residency Requirement
Certain J-1 exchange visitors may be subject to a two year foreign home residency requirement at the end of their period of stay. The two year foreign home residency may apply to J-1 exchange visitors who participate in programs which were financed in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by an agency of the U.S. Government or by the exchange visitor’s government, or who are nationals or residents of a country which have been designated by U.S. Information Agency as requiring the skills of the exchange visitor. Parties subject to the foreign home residency requirement must return to their country of nationality or last residence after completing their program in the United States, and must reside there physically for two years before they may become eligible to apply for an immigrant or temporary worker visa.
Waiver to Home Residency Requirement
Detailed information on the process of obtaining a waiver of the home residency requirement is available at the following Department of State maintained website.
- a period of continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
- an ability to read, write, and speak English;
- a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;
- good moral character;
- attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and,
- favorable disposition toward the United States.
The P-1 nonimmigrant category is for internationally-recognized athletes and entertainment groups, but not individual entertainers. To qualify as a P-1 nonimmigrant, individual athletes, athletic teams and entertainment groups must meet the basic standard of international recognition.
Therefore, they must establish that they have a “high level of achievement in the field evidenced by a degree of skill and recognition substantially above that ordinarily encountered, to the extent that such achievement is renowned, leading, or well-known in more than one country.”
Athletes who perform at an internationally recognized level may be admitted in P-1 status. This classification may be granted to internationally recognized athletes based on their own reputation and achievements as individuals. In addition, the proposed services must require an internationally recognized athlete. Athletic teams must be recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline and must be coming to perform services that require such recognition. Team members also receive P-1 visas, but only to perform with the team. When filing P-1 petitions, the petition must be accompanied by a contract between the athlete or team and a major US sports league or with the individual sports organization. There are several other criteria that must accompany the petition to establish the qualifications of the athlete or team, which are outlined in the regulations.
P-1 visas may also be issued to members of entertainment groups provided the entertainment group has been recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time. Each member must have been with the group for at least one year and be entering the US solely to perform with the group. In addition, the proposed services must require an internationally recognized entertainment group, and the status is granted on the basis of the group’s reputation, not on the basis of individual achievement.
The P-2 nonimmigrant category is reserved for those who are coming to the US through an exchange program in which US based and a foreign-based organizations exchange artists and entertainers. The visas are available to both individuals and groups. There are few requirements for these exchange programs so long as the people involved are of equal caliber, will be employed in similar conditions and for similar periods of time, and there are sim ilar numbers of people being exchanged. The P-2 category also includes support personnel.
P-3 aliens are culturally unique entertainers. All three classifications include accompanying personnel. The P-4 category is for dependents of aliens in the preceding classifications.
Also available for artists and entertainers is the 0-1 extraordinary ability visa. To qualify, one must meet the criteria of accomplishments (artistic exhibitions, presentations, judgment of others in the field, member of professional organizations) as set forth in the law.