US Work Visas for Temporary Workers (Nonimmigrant Visas)
- What is a US Work Visa for Temporary Workers?
- How Do I Apply for a Temporary Worker Visa?
- Documents Required for a Temporary Worker Visa
- Temporary Worker Visa Fees
- Visa Ineligibility / Visa Waiver
- Bringing Family Members of Temporary Workers
- Visa Denials - Temporary Worker Visa
- Time Period and Time Limits of a Temporary Worker Visa
- Admission through a U.S. Port of Entry on a Temporary Worker Visa
- How Do I Extend My Stay on a Temporary Worker Visa?
- Staying Beyond My Authorized Stay in the US and Being Out of Status
- HELP! with a Temporary Worker Visa
What is a US Work Visa for Temporary Workers?
A Temporary Worker visa is a nonimmigrant work visa for a person who wishes to work temporarily in the United States. There are several categories ("classifications") of Temporary Worker visas, some of which have annual limits. Those in the list below have similar application procedures. (Other temporary work visas that have different procedures include the R-1 Visa: Religious Worker Visa, "TN" visas for temporary NAFTA workers, and "E" visas for Treaty Traders or Investors.)
H-1B Visa classification is a work visa that applies to persons in a specialty occupation that requires the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge requiring completion of a specific course of higher education. This classification requires a labor attestation issued by the Secretary of Labor (annual limit: 65,000). This classification also applies to Government-to-Government research and development, or co production projects administered by the Department of Defense (annual limit: 100);
H-2A Visa classification is a work visa that applies to temporary or seasonal agricultural workers;
H-2B Visa classification is a work visa that applies to temporary or seasonal nonagricultural workers. This classification requires a temporary labor certification issued by the Secretary of Labor (annual limit: 66,000);
H-3 Visa classification is a work visa that applies to trainees other than medical or academic. This classification also applies to practical training in the education of handicapped children (annual limit: 50);
L-1 Visa classification is a work visa that applies to intracompany transferees who, within the three preceding years, have been employed abroad continuously for one year, and who will be employed by a branch, parent, affiliate, or subsidiary of that same employer in the U.S. in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity;
O-1 Visa classification is a work visa that applies to persons who have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television field;
O-2 Visa classification is a work visa that applies to persons accompanying an O-1 alien to assist in an artistic or athletic performance for a specific event or performance;
P-1 Visa classification is a work visa that applies to individual or team athletes, or members of an entertainment group that are internationally recognized (annual limit: 25,000);
P-2 Visa classification is a work visa that applies to artists or entertainers who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program;
P-3 Visa classification is a work visa that applies to artists or entertainers who perform under a program that is culturally unique (same as P-1); and
Q-1 Visa classification is a work visa that applies to participants in an international cultural exchange program for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the alien's home country.
How Do I Apply for a Temporary Worker Visa?
In order to be considered for a Temporary Worker Visa, your prospective US employer first must file a USCIS Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Alien Worker, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
It is very important for prospective employers to file the petition as soon as possible (but not more than 6 months before the proposed employment will begin) to provide adequate time for petition and subsequent work visa processing. Please note that these visas are eligible for Premium Processing Service from the USCIS, which guarantees processing in 15 days in return for a $1,000 fee (see Premium Processing Service for the additional filing requirements).
The petition, Form I-129, must be approved by USCIS before you (the prospective temporary worker) can apply for a Temporary Worker Visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. When the petition is approved, your employer or agent is sent a Notice of Action, Form I-797, which serves as the petition approval notification. You should bring the approved I-129 petition receipt number to the interview, so that petition approval can be verified. Be aware that the approval of a petition does not guarantee work visa issuance to an applicant found to be ineligible under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (see Visa Ineligibility / Visa Waiver below).
Once your prospective employer has received Form I-797, generally you should apply for the Temporary Worker Visa at the US Embassy or US Consulate with jurisdiction over your place of permanent residence. Although you may apply at any U.S. consular office abroad, it may be more difficult to qualify for the work visa outside your country of permanent residence. To schedule the interview appointment, you will need the receipt number that is printed on the approved Form I-129 petition.
As part of the Temporary Worker Visa application process, you must have an interview at the US Embassy consular section if you are from age 14 through 79, with few exceptions. Persons age 13 and younger, and age 80 and older, generally do not require an interview, unless requested by the US Embassy or US Consulate. The waiting time for an interview appointment can vary, so apply for your Temporary Worker Visa early. Visa wait times for interview appointments, and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide, is available on our website at Visa Wait Times. Learn how to schedule an appointment for an interview, pay the application processing fee, review embassy specific instructions, and much more by visiting the US Embassy or US Consulate website where you will apply.
During the work visa application process, usually at the interview, an ink-free, digital fingerprint scan will quickly be taken. Some work visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the interview by a Consular Officer.
- To schedule the interview appointment, you will need the receipt number that is printed on the approved Form I-129 petition.
- Online Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application. Some US Embassies and US Consulates that have not converted to this new online process may require older nonimmigrant application forms. See Form DS-160 for more information.
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions). If more than one person is included in the passport, each person must complete an application.
- One (1) 2x2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in Nonimmigrant Visa Photograph Requirements;
- With the exception of the H-1B, L-1, and O categories, work visa applicants also need to show proof of binding ties to a residence outside the United States which they have no intention of abandoning. It is impossible to specify the exact form the evidence should take since circumstances vary greatly.
- Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee. For current fees of State Department government services, see Fees for US Visa Services. You will need to provide a receipt showing the visa application processing fee has been paid, when you come for your visa interview.
- Visa issuance fee. Additionally, if the Temporary Worker Visa is issued, there may be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee. See the US Visa Reciprocity Tables to find out if you must pay a visa issuance reciprocity fee and what the amount is. If there is a fee for issuance for the work visa, it is equal as nearly as possible to the fee charged to United States citizens by the applicant's country of nationality.
Visa Ineligibility / Visa Waiver
There are categories of persons ineligible to receive visas under U.S. law. In some instances an applicant who is ineligible, but who is otherwise properly classifiable as a temporary worker, may apply for a waiver of ineligibility and be issued a visa if the waiver is approved. If you are found to be ineligible, the consular officer will advise you of any waivers.
Bringing Family Members of Temporary Workers
As a temporary worker, your spouse and unmarried, minor children may accompany or join you (except for "Q-1 Cultural Exchange Visitors,") if you can demonstrate that you will be able to support them, but they are unable to accept employment in the United States (with the exception of spouses of L-1 Visa holders – their L-2 spouses may engage in employment with an "employment authorized" endorsement or appropriate work permit).
Visa Denials - Temporary Worker Visa
If you are denied a Temporary Worker Visa, you may apply again if there is new evidence to overcome the basis for the refusal. In the absence of new evidence, consular officers are not obligated to re-examine such cases. For more information, see Visa Denied, Visa Refused Under 214b (Nonimmigrant Visa Denials, Visa Refusals).
Time Period and Time Limits of a Temporary Worker Visa
All of the work visas in the list above have fixed time limits in which you may perform services in the United States. In some cases those time limits may be extended in order to permit the completion of the services (see Extend US Visa Status (I-94 Form I-94 Card): Visa Extension to Stay Longer on My Visit to USA Thereafter, you must remain abroad for a fixed period of time before being readmitted as a temporary worker under any classification.
Admission through a U.S. Port of Entry on a Temporary Worker Visa
You should be aware that a US Visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. A visa is issued by a Department of State Consular Office abroad, but a separate U.S. agency, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), has authority to deny admission at the port of entry. Also, the period for which you are authorized to remain in the U.S. is determined by the CBP, not the Department of State Consular Office. At the port of entry, a CBP official must authorize your admission to the U.S. At that time, the CBP official will provide you with a stamped I-94 Form (Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94 Card), which will include your admission number to the U.S. and which will note how long you are permitted to stay in the U.S. For more information, see:
- Inspection Process for U.S. Entry
- I-94 Form (Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94 Card)
- Length of Stay is Determined by My I-94 Form (Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94 Card) -- NOT My Visa
Upon arrival (at an international airport, seaport or land border crossing), you will be enrolled in the US-VISIT entry-exit program. In addition, some travelers will also need to register their entry into and their departure from the U.S. with the Special Registration program.
How Do I Extend My Stay on a Temporary Worker Visa?
Temporary workers seeking to stay beyond the time indicated on their I-94 Form (Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94 Card) must have approval from the USCIS to extend their stay. The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay is made solely by USCIS. To learn more about how to apply for an extension and its requirements, see Extend US Visa Status (I-94 Form I-94 Card): Visa Extension to Stay Longer on My Visit to USA
Staying Beyond My Authorized Stay in the US and Being Out of Status
You should carefully consider the dates of your authorized stay and make sure you are following the procedures under U.S. immigration laws. It is important that you depart the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be in the U.S. on any given trip, based on the specified end date on your I-94 Form (Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94 Card). Failure to depart the U.S. will cause you to be out-of-status.
- Staying beyond the period of time authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and being out-of-status in the U.S. is a violation of U.S. immigration law. You may become ineligible for a visa in the future for return travel to the United States.
- Staying unlawfully in the United States beyond the date Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authorized--even by one day--results in your visa automatically being voided. In this situation, you are required to reapply for a new nonimmigrant visa, generally in your country of nationality.
- For nonimmigrants in the U.S. who have an I-94 Arrival-Departure Record with the endorsement of Duration of Status or D/S, but who are no longer performing the same function in the U.S. that they were originally admitted to perform (e.g. you are no longer working for the same employer or you are no longer attending the same school), an official or an immigration judge may make a finding of a status violation, resulting in the termination of the period of authorized stay.
If you forget to turn in your I-94 Arrival-Departure Record, see How to Record Departure from the US After the Fact.
- Have a specific question? To help you find an answer quickly, we have placed "Ask a Visa & Immigration Lawyer" boxes on this page. Simply type a question in any of the boxes to receive a response online from a visa and immigration lawyer.
- For assistance in your country, contact the nearest U.S. Consulate.
- For inquiries on visa cases in progress overseas, contact the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate handling your case.
- For assistance within the U.S., contact the State Department's Visa Office at 202-663-1225. You may also email a general inquiry to email@example.com. Be sure to indicate the general subject of your inquiry on the subject line (e.g., temporary worker visa), and do not expect an immediate reply. You may also write to:
- In the U.S., you may also contact your nearest USCIS District office or Sub Office or call the national USCIS toll-free information service at 1-800-375-5283.
- You may also want to seek the advice of an immigration attorney (this link will help you find the right lawyer for your case), or an immigrant assistance organization. A list of accredited organizations and individuals is maintained by the Executive Office of Immigration Review, which also maintains a list of free legal service providers.
U.S. Department of State
Washington, DC 20520-0113