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The United States’ Top 4 Employment Visa Categories Explained

The United States' Top 4 Employment Visas Explained

The United States offers literally dozens of visas through which people can legally enter the country. There are visas for tourists and workers. There are visas for children and the spouses of foreign-born workers with jobs here in the United States. Needless to say, attorneys can be a tremendous help to immigrants who don’t quite know which one to apply for.

Given that work visas are so popular, we thought it might be helpful to discuss the top four categories of work visas through which most foreign-born workers come here. As you read about them, bear in mind that Graham Adair is a business immigration law firm. We are here to help you do things right, as an employer or worker.

Category #1: Temporary Non-Immigrant Workers

The first group of work visas applies to non-immigrant workers who plan to be in the U.S. for a limited amount of time. They might be here to work for a few years before returning home.

The H-1B is perhaps the most well-known visa in this category. Although we deal with all sorts of business immigration law here at Graham Adair, certain members of our team are specialized H-1B visa attorneys. At any rate, the H-1B is designed for professionals with certain academic credentials or work expertise their employers need.

Other visas in this category include the L, O, TN, E-3, P and R visas. Also included are several EAD categories, E-1/E-2, H-2A, H-2B, H-3 visas.

Category #2: Permanent Immigrant Workers

Next up are visas designed for permanent immigrant workers. These are workers who come to the U.S. with the expectation that they will stay here permanently or, in other words, immigrate and become lawful permanent residents. Visas in this category include:

  • First preference EB-1
  • Second preference EB-2
  • Third preference EB-3
  • Fourth preference EB-4
  • Fifth preference EB-5

These are categories based on a person’s accomplishments and background. Most will fall under EB-1, EB-2, or EB-3. 

Category #3: Student and Exchange Visitors

Workers coming to the U.S. as either students or exchange program participants are part of this third category. The F-1 is designed for students enrolled at accredited institutions and maintaining a consistent course of study. F-1 students are not allowed to work off campus during their first year.

Meanwhile, M and J visas are additional options for students and exchange program participants. The M visa is primarily for vocational students while the J visa is for students enrolled in work-study programs.

Category #4: Temporary Business Visitors

The fourth and final work visa category applies to temporary business visitors. They are issued to workers who come to the U.S. on a short-term basis and for explicit reasons. Possibilities include attending a trade show, negotiating a contract, providing company training, and meeting with peers.

There are only three visas in this category, the B-1 being the first of them. A worker visiting the U.S. for no more than six months can apply for the B-1. The worker must state the amount of time they need to complete business here. An approved application results in a visa with that time limit.

Rounding out the category are the GB and WB visas. Workers needing to visit Guam and other U.S. territories can apply for the GB visa which allows legal entry for up to 45 days. The WB is a waiver visa for visitors from 39 designated countries, also commonly known as ESTA. It allows them to be in the U.S. for up to 90 days.

With so many work visas to choose from, it is important that foreign workers hoping to come here get it right. Making the right choice avoids a lot of headaches during the application and approval process.

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