Is an H-1B Visa Right for You? Understanding the Different Work Visas

You know you want to expand your career outside of your country’s borders, and the United States has a lot to offer. All you have to do is get there! But to live and work in the US, you need a visa, with the H-1B category being the most popular. However, it’s not the only kind of work visa there is, and navigating the various types can be confusing. We’ve broken them down for you here to help you understand which one is right for you.

The “E” Categories

Work visas are split into alphabetic-numeric categories defining who qualifies for that document. The first (earliest in the alphabet) category is “E,” and it has three sub-designations: E-1, E-2, and E-3.

E-1 visas are for Treaty Traders, nationals that work for a US trading company with 50% of more business from a home country with a treaty of commerce and navigation with the US. These individuals may enter the country to conduct trade between the two nations. Benefits include travel in and out of the US any time the visa is valid and unlimited two-year extensions for your stay. Dependents can stay with you and attend school, and spouses may seek employment with an employment authorization document.

E-2 visas are similar to the E-1, but they’re for treaty investors who work for a US company using the worker’s home country for half or more of its investment capital. Visa holders may stay in the US for up to five years with the intention of investing substantial capital in a specific approved US enterprise. Dependents may stay with the visa holder and attend a school or choose to live outside of the US and come and go freely.

E-3 visas are specifically designed for Australian nationals who want to work for a US employer in a specialty occupation. Professionals with a bachelor’s degree or higher and the skills required to perform an approved specialized job may obtain an E-3 visa. There is an annual limit, as with the H-1B, but this limit has yet to be reached each year, giving applicants the freedom to apply at any time. The visa is valid for two years with unlimited extensions. Spouses may work, and dependents may attend school.

The “H” Categories

H-1B visas are similar to the E-3 visa but for most other countries. To qualify for this visa, the applicant must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a specialty occupation linked to the job they’ve been offered. There are some exceptions to this for highly esteemed professionals in their industry. Talk to your immigration attorney if you believe you may qualify for this visa. 

Jobs may be cap-exempt or capped, in which case, applicants must be chosen in the lottery system before applying for the H-1B visa.

Benefits include dual-intent, so you can start the paperwork to obtain your Green Card if you choose to do so. Spouses and dependents may live with you for the duration of your visa: three years, with an optional three-year extension. Children may attend school, and spouses may work with an employment authorization document.

H-2A visas are for agricultural positions. Foreign nonimmigrants may live and work in the US as long as they’re filling in positions in areas of shortage in ag, as recognized by the US Department of Agriculture. This visa does not qualify the holder to seek a Green Card, and although family members may travel with them, they may not work, but they can attend school.

H-2B visas are for miscellaneous workers in any area where there is a shortage of available and qualified American workers. Similar to the H-2A, dependents may come with the visa holder and attend school but not work, and holders can’t seek a Green Card during their stay.

H-3 visas are intended for temporary trainees needing on-the-job training they can’t get in their home country. Beneficiaries can stay in the US for up to two years and bring their spouse and dependents, but family members can’t work.

The “P” Categories

P-1 visas are for internationally recognized athletes and entertainers. Holders may travel in and out of the country unrestrictedly. They can engage in part-time study while in the US and perform for money. While in the country, P-1 holders can apply for an adjustment of status to become permanent residents. They may bring their spouse, dependents, and any essential support personnel.

P-2 visas are for any entertainer performing in the US due to a government-recognized exchange program. They may come and go freely in and out of the US, work, and study. P-2 holders may bring their spouses and dependents, but those individuals may not work.

P-3 visas belong to a category designed for artists and entertainers who enter the US to present performances unique to their cultures. P-3 holders may bring their spouses, dependents, and essential support personnel. Children may attend school, but dependents can’t work.

The Other Categories

Each of the other categories is designed for specific industries, with unique benefits and drawbacks to each.

The L-1 visa is only for managers, executives, or those holding specialized knowledge transferring internationally to a US branch of their employer. L-1 visa holders may not seek dual intent. Spouses and dependents can live and work in the US if they qualify for an employment authorization document.

O-1 visas are for those who demonstrate extraordinary ability in arts, education, business, science, or athletics. The O-1 visa is also a dual intent, allowing the holder to apply for a Green Card during their stay. Dependents of O-1 visa holders may not work, but children may attend school.

R-1 visas are solely for ministers and workers of recognized religions. This is a temporary visa. Spouses and dependents may come with the R-1 holder but are not allowed to work. Children may attend school.

TN visas are the final category. These are work visas for those in Canada and Mexico who qualify for employment and residency in the US under NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). Beneficiaries of this visa can bring their spouse and dependents, who can attend school but not work.

What’s Next?

Which visa category best applies to your situation? Contact Visa2US for help narrowing down your work visas. 

Our legal professionals are experts when it comes to getting foreign workers into the US under an H-1B visa. Call or message us today to see if you qualify for this highly coveted work visa or if another one would be better for your unique skills. 


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H-1B Visa

H-1B Visa

H-1B visa is used by businesses and organizations in the United States to employ foreign nationals with the preferred qualifications, knowledge, and expertise in a role.

I-485 Adjustment of Status

I-485 Adjustment of Status

Submit a form I-485 application to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

An applicant must either hold an advanced degree or have an exceptional ability in their field that would substantially benefit the U.S. to be qualified.