How to File for a Work Visa

Two Methods:A Foreign National Applying for a Work Visa in the United StatesU.S. Citizen Applying for Work Visa in Another Country

Residents of other countries who want to work in the U.S. must file for a work visa. This nonimmigrant visa is for temporary work and accompanies a passport when traveling to U.S. port of entry. The final decision of whether an international worker is allowed entry into the U.S. for a job is determined by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Method 1
A Foreign National Applying for a Work Visa in the United States

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    Inquire whether your potential U.S. employer has submitted a Temporary Labor Certification Application to the Department of Labor. This is necessary before an international worker can complete a U.S. visa application.
    • An employer must demonstrate that a job is temporary and that U.S. workers aren't willing or qualified to do the job.
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    Ask the prospective employer to file a nonimmigrant petition (Form I-129) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The petition must state the worker classification. The main worker classifications are:
    • E-1 Treaty Traders.
    • E-2 Treaty Investors.
    • E-3 Certain Specialty Occupation Professionals from Australia.
    • H-1B Specialty Occupations and Fashion Models.
    • H-2A Agricultural Workers.
    • H-2B Non-Agricultural Workers.
    • H-3 Nonimmigrant Trainee.
    • I-1 Representatives of Foreign Media.
    • L-1A Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager.
    • L-1B Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge.
    • O-1 Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement.
    • P-1A Internationally Recognized Athlete.
    • P-1B Member of Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group.
    • P-2 Performer or Group Performing under Reciprocal Exchange Program.
    • P-3 Artist or Entertainer Part of a Culturally Unique Program.
    • Q Cultural Exchange.
    • R-1 Temporary Religious Workers.
    • TN NAFTA Professionals.
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    File for a work visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country after the employer's Form I-129 nonimmigrant petition is approved.
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    Apply to U.S. Customs and Border Protection for entry to the U.S.

Method 2
U.S. Citizen Applying for Work Visa in Another Country

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    Follow a country's specific directions as a U.S. citizen applying for a work visa.
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    Gather required documentation, which may include:
    • A passport.
    • A visa application form.
    • A certificate of eligibility.
    • A current photograph.
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    Apply for a work visa at the consulate that oversees the state where you reside.


  • Thirty-six countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows for 90 days of travel and/or work as long as the person has either an electronic passport or a machine readable passport issued before 2005.
  • If you are traveling under the VWP program, you must register on line with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).


  • There is a limit or cap on the number of non-agricultural workers allowed in the U.S. each fiscal year.

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Categories: Work World