United States Imigration Law
US immigration law is arguably the most complex in the World with fifty-three different types of non-immigrant visas and a number of ways of gaining permanent residence (the “Green Card”). For many people it is a difficult and lengthy process gaining a “Green Card” on an initial basis. It is frequently far better to apply for one of the non-immigrant visas and then apply for an adjustment of status to “lawful permanent residence”.
I do not propose to cover every conceivable type of visa available but to try and cover the more common types.
WORK RELATED NON-IMMIGRANT VISAS
The H Non-Immigrant Visas
There is the H-1B visa for a “specialty occupation” as a “specialist knowledge worker”. This is normally for someone who is a graduate or graduate equivalent and allows entry into the US for up to six years to work for a company in the US. The question of “graduate equivalent” is much misunderstood as there are many non-graduates with a properly documented case who may be able enter the US on this basis.
It is an indication of the demand for professionally trained nurses in the US that there is even a particular visa, the H-1A to cover this. The general requirements are that you should have a “license” or equivalent to practise and are fully qualified to engage in your intended employment.
The H-2B visa allows entry for both skilled or unskilled works. The main requirement is that one needs to adhere to what is called “labor certification” to show that there are no unemployed but qualified American citizens or permanent residents who can fill the vacancy. It is not normally permitted to apply for permanent residence after entry on this particular visa.
The H-3 visa is for training that should be of use outside the US. If possible the training should be of a type that will utilise your present experience and qualifications and/or future proposed employment. It would also be useful to show that there is some form of benefit to the US employer. There is also the H-2A for agricultural workers.
The E Non-Immigrant Visas
The E-1 Treaty Trader visa is for someone who will be an employee of a business where there is “substantial trade” between the UK and the US. The E-2 Treaty Investor visa is for someone who is an employee of a business where there has been substantial investment from a UK business or businessman. These are the only non-immigrant visas that allow for extensions indefinitely (obviously not the same as a “Green Card”).
The L-1 Non-Immigrant Visa
If your employer or a company in the US have an “affiliate” or “subsidiary” in either country there is the L-1 Intra-Company Transferee visa. The main requirement is that you should be a manager or executive or an employee with specialised knowledge. This allows entry for between five and seven years depending on the type of employment.
The J-1 Non-Immigrant Visa
The aim of this programme is to foster international relations by bringing exchange visitors into the US to acquire skills that can be utilised in their home country. These programmes need to be designated by the United States Information Agency. If you wish to work for a short period of time, the easiest method may be on a J-1 exchange visitor visa. However if you wish to apply for a “more permanent” non-immigrant visa at a later date or permanent residence, depending on the scheme, there may be problems.
Other Non-Immigrant Visas
I: Representative of foreign information media
M-1: Vocational or other recognised non-academic student
O-1: Aliens with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business or athletics
P-1 to P-3: Athletes or entertainers
Q-1: International Cultural Exchange Programme
R-1: Religious Occupation