What Are the Most Common U.S. Work Visa Types?

August 30, 2017 Chelsea Iversen


For employers seeking skilled labor from the global marketplace, the U.S. immigration system offers various work visa types to fit different needs. For employers and workers alike, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of the immigration process and the nuances involved in hiring foreign nationals. Here are some of the most common work visas in the U.S.:

H-1B Visa

The H-1B visa is a temporary work visa that is available to foreign nationals in specialty occupations, such as engineering and computer science. Among the various work visa types in the U.S., the H-1B is the most popular. Because of the high demand (in 2017, there were over 236,000 applications filed), a yearly cap of 85,000 petitions has been applied to the H-1B, of which 20,000 are reserved for individuals with a master’s degree. The high number of applications and the low number of available H-1B visas has brought more attention to other visa types in recent years.

L-1 Visa

The L-1 visa classification is reserved for employers who need to transfer managers, executives or employees with specialized knowledge from a foreign entity to a U.S. branch. The worker must be with the organization for at least one year and the employer must establish a relationship between the foreign and U.S. entity.

TN Visa

The TN visa is a special classification for citizens of Mexico and Canada that was established as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Foreign employees eligible to seek admission to TN status include accountants, engineers, lawyers, and other specifically designated professionals. This visa type is highly valued because there is no cap and no max-out date specified for the TN visa, unlike other work visa types in the U.S.

Green card visas

Permanent resident visas in the U.S. are often referred to as green cards. Common employment-based green cards include the EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 categories. The EB-1 green card is available to priority workers with exceptional knowledge in the sciences, arts, education, business, and athletics. The EB-2 green card is similar, although may also be available for workers with a master’s or bachelor’s degree and five years of post-bachelor’s work experience. Finally, EB-3 green card is available to skilled workers or professionals with a bachelor’s degree who are filling a role that requires a college degree.

For more work visa types and other immigration basics download our Immigration Glossary or attend our upcoming webinar, The Beginner’s Guide to Immigration.

Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult an Envoy-retained attorney or another qualified professional.

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