If you are coming to the United States to perform temporary work, you will still need to be sponsored by a U.S. based employer. The I-129 is the USCIS application that should be filled out by any employer who wishes to hire a foreign national who is coming to the U.S. to perform such temporary employment.

This is a petition that should also not be confused with the I-130, which is another separate petition that should only be used for U.S. citizens or green card holders who are trying to sponsor a close relative to come to the United States. In addition, the I-140 should also not be confused with the I-129. The I-140 is explicitly for employment based offers on a permanent bases. This is why some applicants choose to file a green card application with their I-140.

Who is Eligible for the I-129 Petition 

The I-129 as mentioned covers non-immigrants who are coming to the United States on visas that are temporary, such as the specialized H-1B visa. The categories for I-129 petitioners to be aware of include the following:

  • Temporary workers who qualify for H1B, H-1C, H-2A,  or H-3 status
  • Religious workers and cultural exchange visitors
  • Athletes, performers or entertainers who qualify for P-1 or P-2 visas
  • E2 Investors (for purposes of visa extension)

Functions of the I-129

While the above mentioned categories represent all of the visas that can be processed at a U.S. consulate after the I-129 is approved on an applicants behalf, there are other critical functions of the I-129. For example, if you are already in a specific non-immigrant job, an employer can use the I-129 to extend the status of the foreign national in question, or to change the employees job duty, function, or their salary.

In addition, a foreign national who is in the United States in another non-immigrant status can have an employer file an I-129 on their behalf to change their status to one of the above mentioned categories.

Really, each case is very specific, but in general the above mentioned categories only apply to the I-129. If you are applying for an immigrant visa, then the I-129 application does not apply to your situation or the employer who you are working for. Mainly, there are legal ramifications for continuing at a job as a non-immigrant if you have not declared that you are now being paid at a different rate or your job duty within the same company has changed.

Filing for Dependents of Temporary Visa Holders 

In addition to the principal applicant who is seeking a temporary visa to work in the U.S., that foreign national might also have children or a spouse they are seeking to bring with them to the U.S. If the dependents are outside of the U.S., they will need to seek a dependent visa through consular processing. In this case, they will have to need to have proof of their parents/spouses USCIS official I-797 receipt of the approved I-129 petition (AllLaw, 2021).

Likewise, if the dependents are already in the U.S. and the I-129 has been approved by the USCIS, an application to extend/change their to a non-immigrant status should be filed by the individual or with the help of a preparer. This is known as the I-539 Form, which has been covered in the Immigration blog as well.

Filing Fee and Processing Time

The I-129 has a filing fee of $460 dollars. In order to check the processing time based on where your employer will be filing the application, you should go to the USCIS “Check Case Processing Times” website, which is available here: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/.

Select the I-129 from the “Form” list, and then make sure to check the appropriate USCIS office where it will be sent.