Different Types of USA Work Visas – A Complete Guide

Learn about the different types of work visas available for international students and foreign nationals in the USA, including temporary work visas and green cards.

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Different Types of USA Work Visas – A Complete Guide
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Apr 17, 2023 04:44 AM
As an international student, you wouldn’t be thinking of just studying in the USA and coming back to your country. You would also want to work in the country for some time. You will need a work visa to accomplish that. Some of the popular USA work visas are discussed in this blog.
Foreign nationals in the USA do need a work visa for being legally employed in the country. There are different types of work visas foreigners interested in working in the USA like the Green card (permanent residence), temporary work visa (skilled and non-skilled), seasonal work visa, and exchange worker visa. Each work permit has a different requirement, and it may depend on your eligibility to grab that particular visa or not.

F1 Student Visa

All the international students get an F1 visa to allow them to study in the USA. This visa covers the duration of the course as well as a six-month additional time so that the students can search for a job. The six-month period starts after the graduation ceremony is done. Hence, a lot of students opt for later graduation as well. This hack can help one buy three months additional time.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) – OPT is temporary employment that refers to an F-1 student’s major area of study. Eligible students can apply for up to 12 months of OPT employment authorization before completing their academic studies (pre-completion) or after completing their academic studies (post-completion).

Exchange Visitor Visa

US Exchange Visitor (J) visa is a non-immigrant visa and is available to individuals approved to participate in short-duration work exchange and for international students going for any exchange program related studies. This visa allows the foreign workers or international students to experience somedays in the USA before returning to their home, along with an appreciation for the American culture and lifestyle. The maximum time limit for these visas is three months tops, and they need to be extended for a stay beyond that.
According to the State Department, eligible categories of visitors for the Exchange Visitor Visa include campus counselors, international students, interns, physicians, professors, scholars, teachers, and trainees.

Temporary Work Visa

For a temporary period of work, there are different types of temporary USA work visas like temporary skilled worker visa, investor visa, business visitor visa. This visa depends on your area of work, and you can choose which may be the one.

Temporary Worker Visa (H1-B) [Skilled Workers]

The H-1B visa is one of the most familiar USA work visas. This visa is available to foreigners or international students who are now working in the US in occupations such as engineering and computer science. Because of the high demand, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) applies a yearly cap of 85,000 petitions to the H-1B, of which 20,000 are reserved for individuals holding a master’s degree. The high number of appeals and the low number of available H-1B visas has brought more attention to other visa types in recent years.
To be eligible for this visa, you must be an employee and work in an occupation that requires specialized skills. Usually, it is the firm that bears the cost of the H1B and also takes care of the documentation needed to get the necessary approval.
As an international student, till the time you have your H1B approved, you can opt for a temporary work visa which can be obtained from the local office upon submission of relevant documents presented by your company.

L1 Visa

L1 Visas are reserved for employers who wish to transfer their employees with specialized knowledge to their US offices. There are two types of L1 Visas.
L1 A – This visa can be used by employees with managerial, executive and supervisory duties.
L1 B – This Visa has the same benefits as L1 A, but it is reserved for foreign nationals with specialized skills.
These USA work visas are in great demand and to qualify for L1 Visas, you have to prove that you have a niche skill that others in your company do not possess.

O-1 Visa

This is a special category visa for foreign nationals who have extraordinary ability or have achieved great success in the fields of education, athletics, business or sciences.

NAFTA Work Permit

The citizens of Canada or Mexico can work in the US, as they have an agreement with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). These citizens may be eligible for a temporary work visa also. NAFTA allows a qualified individual to obtain a work visa quickly and with the least documentation. The US job offer must be from a list of occupations specified by NAFTA. Hence, if you have a citizenship of either of Canada or Mexico, you will be eligible for the NAFTA work permit.

Green Cards

For a green card, you need to get a job offer that needs you to be a permanent resident in the US.
Some categories need a certificate from the US Department of Labor to confirm fewer US workers are able, willing, qualified, and available in that area where the immigrant is to be employed. The certificate also explains that no US workers are displaced with foreign workers too. The Employment-Based (EB) sections are EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4, and EB-5.

EB-1 - Priority Workers

  • Persons such as Sportsmen, Scientist, Artists, ability in education and business come under EB-1
  • Outstanding professors and researchers
  • Multinational executives and managers of a company

EB-2 - Professionals and Persons of Exceptional Ability

  • Students who have been awarded an advanced degree
  • Rare persons or research students in the field of science, arts or business

EB-3 - Skilled and Unskilled Workers and Professionals

  • Skilled workers
  • Professionals
  • Unskilled workers

EB-4 - Certain Special Immigrants

Subgroups such as:
  • Ministers of religion
  • Certain retired international organized employees
  • Persons recruited outside the US who have served or enlisted to help in the US Armed Forces

This particular visa is for the foreign investors who make a capital investment in new commercial enterprises creating a job in the US.

The process to apply:
1. The employer or agent obtains Labor Certification Approval – The employers or agents must get a labor certification certificate from the Department of Labor with all the conditions.
2. Employer files petition with USCIS – Getting your labor certification approved, you then need to file Form I-140, which is Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, along with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the preferred category. E-B1 category individuals can file their petitions.
3. USCIS transfers petition to the National Visa Center (NVC) – Once USCIS approves the request, then the National Visa Center begins pre-processing the application.
4. The immigrant applies for a Green Card. – After all the above processes, the persons who are specially-abled and come under the Employment First preference category can file their petitions. Applicants residing in the US can apply for an Adjustment of Status as they would have to go through an embassy or consulate for the process.

Green Card Lottery

There is a lottery system program for Green Card where only limited applicants get the Green Card.
The annual green card lottery program is also known as the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. As per this program, the Green card is given to randomly selected applicants to obtain the permanent legal status of resident of the US.
Apply for this program much in advance of the actual date to be lucky. The recent policy changes have made it almost impossible to get a green card with its supremely extended waiting time.


This blog has explored the types of USA work visas in detail. There are several types of work visas for foreign nationals to avail, depending on your academic background, type of your employment, your native country etc. Although it is getting increasingly difficult to obtain a suitable work visa due to the rise in demand, it is still possible to navigate the system if you are really at the top of your game in your profession.
To know about the top 10 STEM Master’s courses to study in the USA, read:

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