Immigration in the United States is a complex and frequently time-consuming process, even for businesses. Figuring out what visa you should apply for, what paperwork to fill out and what fees to pay or simply what your company needs to do to get started can be a frustrating experience.
What Visa(s) Should I Apply For?
There are many different visa programs available to choose from and you will need to decide which one is appropriate for your company. Often, a business immigration attorney can help you decide the best course of action to take.
Here are a few questions to consider:
Are you hiring new employees only for a season (less than 10 months out of the year)?
What will their job description & duties be?
Are you looking to make your new hire a permanent resident down the line?
Are you looking to hire someone from a country with which the US has a treaty, or elsewhere?
H-1B Visa for Specialty Workers
The H-1B visa allows US companies to employ graduate level workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in IT, finance, accounting, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, medicine, etc.
Any professional level job that usually requires you to have a bachelor's degree or higher can come under the H-1B visa for specialty occupations.
H-2A Visa for Temporary Agricultural Workers
The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs.
H-2B Visa for Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers
This visa is only available for work that is temporary in nature, and cannot be related to agriculture.
This includes recurring seasonal work (like ski resort work in the winter), peak-load work (roofing or construction company needing additional hands during busy season) as well as intermittent work or a one time occurrence.
B-1 Visa for Business Visitors
Business travelers may enter the United States using a B-1 'Visitor for Business' Visa. Typically these visas are issued as joint B-1 business visit visa and B-2 'Visitor for Pleasure' (i.e. Tourist) visa.
This practice means that, if you have an old B-1/B-2 visa originally issued for a tourist trip, it may be valid for a planned business trip.
L-1 Visas for Transferring Existing Employees to the USA
The United States L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa which allows overseas companies to transfer executives and managers and specialized knowledge employees to a new or existing US office for up to seven years. The employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of the US company outside of the US for at least one year out of the last three years. This can be an excellent way for businesses to expand into the US with a minimal investment.
How Long Does It Take?
Employment based immigrant visa cases take additional time because they are in numerically limited visa categories. The length of time varies from case to case and cannot be predicted for individual cases with any accuracy.
Some cases are delayed because applicants do not follow instructions carefully. Some visa applications require further administrative processing, which takes additional time after the consular officer interviews the applicant.
Our recommendation is to get started early-- in most cases, a year before you actually need the worker(s) present. When it comes to business immigration, the procedures for getting started hiring foreign employees can take months or even years depending on which business immigration program you are utilizing.
For more on hiring foreign workers, check out Business Immigration: The Employer's Definitive Guide to Hiring Foreign Workers.