The Immigration and Nationality Act provides several categories of nonimmigrant visas for a person who wishes to work temporarily in the United States. There are annual numerical limits on some classifications which are shown in parentheses.
L classification applies to intracompany transferees who, within the three preceding years, have been employed abroad continuously for one year, and who will be employed by a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of that same employer in the U.S. in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity;
In order to be considered as a nonimmigrant under the above classifications the applicant’s prospective employer or agent must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services in the Department of Homeland Security (USCIS). Once approved, the employer or agent is sent a notice of approval, Form I-797. It should be noted that the approval of a petition shall not guarantee visa issuance to an applicant found to be ineligible under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Visa Ineligibility / Waiver
The nonimmigrant visa application Form DS-156 list classes of persons who are ineligible under U.S. law to receive visas. In some instances an applicant who is ineligible, but who is otherwise properly classifiable as a temporary worker, may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and be issued a visa if the waiver is approved.
Applying for a Visa
Applicants for temporary work visas should generally apply at the American Embassy or Consulate with jurisdiction over their place of permanent residence. Although visa applicants may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the visa outside the country of permanent residence. As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for visa applicants from age 14 through 79. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by embassy or consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is available on our website at Visa Wait Times, and on most embassy websites. During the visa application process, usually at the interview, a quick, two-digit, ink-free fingerprint scan will be taken. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply.
Each applicant for a temporary worker visa must pay a nonrefundable US$100 application fee and submit:
- An application Form DS-156, completed and signed. Select Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-156 to access both versions of the DS-156. You may also check with the Embassy Consular Section where you will apply to determine if the hard-copy blank DS-156 form is available, should you need it.
- A Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-157 provides additional information about your travel plans. Submission of this completed form is required for all male applicants between 16-45 years of age. It is also required for all applicants from state sponsors of terrorism age 16 and over, irrespective of gender, without exception. Six countries are now designated as state sponsors of terrorism, including North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iran, and Libya. Select Special Processing Procedures to learn more. You should know that a consular officer may require any nonimmigrant visa applicant to complete this form. Here is Form DS-157 .
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the United States. If more than one person is included in the passport, each person desiring a visa must make an application.
- As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for almost all visa applicants. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants can vary, so early visa application is strongly encouraged. During the visa interview, a quick, two-digit, ink-free fingerprint scan will be taken, as well as a digital photo. Some applicants will need additional screening, and will be notified when they apply.
- One (1) 2×2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in nonimmigrant photograph requirements .
- A notice of approval, Form I-797.
With the exception of the H-1 and L-1, applicants may also need to show proof of binding ties to a residence outside the United States which they have no intention of abandoning. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since applicants’ circumstances vary greatly.
Entering the U.S. – Port of Entry
A visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad, to travel to the United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States. If you are allowed to enter the U.S., the CBP official will determine the length of your visit on the Arrival-Departure Record (Form I-94). Since Form I-94 documents your authorized stay in the U.S., it’s very important to keep in your passport. Upon arrival (at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. In addition, some travelers will also need to register their entry into and their departure from the U.S. with the Special Registration program. The Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection internet site offers additional information on Admissions/Entry requirements.
With the exception of “Q-1 Cultural Exchange Visitors,” the spouse and unmarried, minor children of an applicant under any of the above classifications may also be classified as nonimmigrants in order to accompany or join the principal applicant. A person who has received a visa as the spouse or child of a temporary worker may not accept employment in the United States. The principal applicant must be able to show that he or she will be able to support his or her family in the United States.
All of the above classifications have fixed time limits in which the alien may perform services in the United States. In some cases those time limits may be extended by USCIS in order to permit the completion of the services. Thereafter, the alien must remain abroad for a fixed period of time before being readmitted as a temporary worker under any classification. USCIS will notify the petitioner on Form I-797 whenever a visa petition, an extension of a visa petition, or an extension of stay is approved under any of the above classifications. The beneficiary may use a copy of Form I-797 to apply for a new or revalidated visa during the validity period of the petition. The approval of a permanent labor certification or the filing of a preference petition for an alien under the H-1 or L classifications shall not be a basis for denying a visa.
Questions about petitioning procedures, qualifications for various classifications, and conditions and limitations on employment should be made by the prospective employer or agent in the United States to the nearest USCIS office. Questions on the visa application to the American consular official should be addressed to the appropriate consular office abroad by the applicant. Inquiries on visa cases in progress overseas should contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case.