The following is a very basic outline of some of the most commonly used visas. Before applying for a visa, it is often a good idea to engage the services of a fully qualified immigrant lawyer or agent.
The following visas are all classed as ‘immigrant’ visas, meaning holders can live permanently in the States:
- EB-1 Priority Worker: Available to foreign nationals of ‘extraordinary ability’.
- EB-2: Aimed at professionals with advanced degrees or people with ‘exceptional ability’.
- EB-3: For ‘Skilled’ or ‘Professional Workers’, defined either as professionals with bachelor’s degrees; skilled workers with two years training and experience; and unskilled workers whose jobs are in short supply in the United States. A job offer and labour certification will be required for this visa
- EB-4: For religious workers and current/former US government employees based abroad.
Due to the fairly complicated nature of a being granted an ‘immigrant’ visa, most applicants are likely to apply initially for one of the following ‘non-immigrant’/temporary visas first.
- H-1B Speciality Worker: For those with skills and experience in specialist industries which are facing labour shortages. Applicants need either a four-year degree related to the occupation in question or 12 years direct experience in the role. IT, engineering and healthcare professionals stand particularly good chances of obtaining this visa.
- Other H-Classes: For nurses working in health professional shortage areas; temporary agricultural workers; temporary workers, skilled or unskilled; and trainees invited by an organisation or individual.
People who work for a company which has US-based operations may be offered the chance to transfer to the States through one of the following visas:
- L-1A: Mainly for executives or people in managerial roles, but also used by business owners to transfer themselves to a US branch of their own company. The transferee must continue to work at the same managerial level.
- L-1B: For workers with specialised skills or knowledge.
- L-2: For spouses and children of the recipients of L-1A and L-1B visas.
There is a plethora of business visas available. The following are among the most popular:
- EB-5 Immigrant Investor visa: Applicants must either invest US$1 million in a business and stimulate employment for ten people; or invest US$500,000 and hire ten employees in an area where the national employment rate exceeds the national average by a set amount; or invest US$500,000 in a qualifying ‘Regional Centre’ as designated by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- E1 Treaty Trader: Used by businesses involved in the import/export of goods between the US and other nations which have signed a trade and investment treaty with the US.
- E2-Treaty Investor: The E-2 is for people who invest a ‘substantial’ amount of capital in a US enterprise that they are seeking to develop. This visa is quite popular among those with decent funds available as no previous business experience is required.
The E1 and E2 visas will need to be renewed on a regular basis.
US citizens may sponsor immediate relatives for permanent residence – for example, spouses, parents or step children. Others who may be able to be sponsored include unmarried sons and daughters of US citizens who are over 21 years of age; spouses and unmarried under 21s of a US permanent resident; unmarried sons and daughters over 21 of a US permanent resident; and biological siblings of US citizens.