In this article we briefly describe the most popular non-immigrant visas for the United States. Non-immigrant visas are those that allow to stay in the United States for a limited period of time, at the end of which the visa holder must return to his / her home country, as opposed to immigrant visas that allow to permanently reside in the United States (the green cards, essentially).
The B-1 visa is a non-immigrant visas that allows you to stay in the United States for short periods in order to conclude business or attend to various professional commitments. Among the activities allowed with a B-1 visa we highlight the following:
- Attend meetings with business partners and employees
- Attend market fairs and conferences
- Negotiation and execution of commercial agreements
- Search for new business opportunities
It is crucial to note that the B-1 visa does not allow to work or get paid in the United States.
In order to obtain the B-1 Visa, the following requirements must be demonstrated:
- The business or professional purpose of the trip to the United States
- Sufficient funds available to cover travel and living expenses while in the United States
- Significant ties with the foreign country to support the likelihood that the B-1 holder will be back home at the end of the allowed period (tax returns, bank account statements, paychecks, title to real estate property or residential lease agreements are among the documents to be enclosed with your B-1 Visa application)
The period of stay under B-1 Visa is set by the U.S. authorities at the time of the interview or at the time of the entry into the country and may vary from 15 days to 6 months, subject to extensions.
E-1 VISA (TREATY TRADER)
The E-1 Visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows to live and reside in the United States to engage in international trade activity mainly with your country of citizenship, provided that this country is among those that maintains a treaty with the USA that allow their citizens to acquire E-1 status.
The beneficiary company, either a U.S. entity or an entity established in your country of citizenship, must be engaged in a “substantial” trade of goods or services, involving a steady and continuous number of transactions and must generate a significant turnover. Occasional international trade does not serve for E-1 visa purposes.
The qualifying trade should take place between your country of citizenship and the United States and should account for at least 50% of the total revenues of the company deriving from international trade. Domestic trade within the U.S. should not be taken into consideration to calculate said 50%.
The E-1 visa beneficiaries can be either the partner, or the partners, of the company that practices the trade, or their employees as long as they hold executive or managerial positions or as long as their employment requires special technical skills.
For more detailed information regarding the E-1 Visa for the United States, you can read our article:
E-2 VISA (TREATY INVESTOR)
The E-2 visa can be issued to anyone who makes a substantial investment of capital or assets in a United States business enterprise. Passive investments (e.g. real estate or stocks) do not qualify as a viable investment for E-2 visa purposes.
The E-2 visa beneficiary must be a citizen of a country that maintains specific commercial treaties with the United States allowing their citizens to acquire the E-2 visa status. You can find the updated list of treaty countries here.
The E-2 visa investment must be “substantial”, that is, proportionate and suitable to support the establishment and successful development of the US business. No minimum investment is required, however E-2 visa applications will rarely be approved if the investment is less than $ 80,000 / $ 100,000.
Further, the investment must be put “irrevocably put at risk”: the E-2 visa candidate should be able to demonstrate that the funds are being used for business related expenses, and it will not be possible to recoup the amount should the business fail.
Funds must have a legitimate source and may be obtained from your personal savings or from a loan or from a gift.
For additional information on the E-2 visa, you can visit the E-2VisaWorld website here or read our articles E-2 Visa for the United States and E-2 Visa through investing in a franchise.
L-1A VISA (INTRACOMPANY TRANSFEREE)
The L-1A visa is typically used to transfer executive or managerial employees to a U.S. subsidiary company from a foreign company, or it can be used by a foreign company to send managers or executives to open a subsidiary in the USA.
The US based company must be a parent company, subsidiary, branch or affiliate of the foreign company from which the L-1A visa beneficiary originates and both must conduct business and hire employees in their respective countries. The business carried out by the American company must be continuous and must consist in the trade – not necessarily international – of goods and / or services for purposes of making a profit.
The L-1A visa beneficiary must have been employed with the foreign parent company for at least 1 year in the past 3 years, and must be sent to the United States to cover an executive or managerial position.
The L-1A visa, as mentioned above, can also be requested by foreign companies which, without having any physical presence in the United States, intend to send their executives or managers to open a subsidiary in this country (new office).
To this end, it must be demonstrated that sufficient physical space has been secured to house the intended business activity.
The L-1A visa beneficiary for new office purposes may stay in the United States for an initial period of one year, while the other L-1A visas may stay for an initial period of three years. In both cases, the L-1A status may be extended for a maximum of seven years in total, at 2 years increments each time.
Family members (spouse and minor children) may accompany the L-1A visa holder to the U.S. by applying for L-2 visa. The L1-A spouse may be authorized to work, while the underage children will only be able to attend school.
H-1B VISA (SPECIALTY OCCUPATIONS)
The H-1B visa allows a U.S. employer to hire a foreign national who meets certain requirements for the performance of certain specialty occupations. Specialty occupations are the professions for which, due to their complexity, a university degree or equivalent is generally required.
The H1-B candidate must show one of the following requirements: (i) a university degree in the United States or its equivalent in the foreign country; (ii) a license or certification to practice the specialty occupation; (iii) a background in the specialty occupation equivalent, according to certain criteria, to a university degree.
The duration of the H-1B visa is three years, renewable only one time for additional 3 years, up to a maximum of six years.
The H-1B visa is subject to a quota, e.g.: regardless of the number of applications, no more than 65,000 such visas are admitted each year. However, this rule is subject to exceptions for the most qualified candidates. It is possible to apply for this type of visa only once a year.
Family members (spouse and minor children) may accompany the H-1B visa holder and reside in the U.S. by applying for H-4 visa. The spouse of H-1B may be authorized to work, while the underage children may only attend school.
J-1 VISA (EXCHANGE VISITORS)
The J-1 visa can be issued to those who intend to travel to the United States to attend a study course, engage in a professional training or an internship period by following a specific program called the Exchange Visitor Program. The J-1 visa allows to work in the USA only within the limits and under the terms of the Exchange Visitor Program.
The duration of the J-1 visa varies between 12 and 18 months depending on the case, but the visa is not renewable.
Family members (spouse and minor children) can follow J-1 by applying for J-2 visa. The spouse may be authorized to work in the USA upon filing a specific application.
Typically, to qualify for J-1 visa status the candidate must prove to have obtained a degree or equivalent, or to have at least a 5 year experience in the field.
For further information on the J-1 visa for the United States you can read our blog: The J-1 United States visa.