Understanding Different Types of Employment-Based Visas

When someone from another country wants to come to the United States for work, there are a number of different employment-related visa options. Some of these are immigration visas while others are non-immigration visas. While the various types of visas can sound similar, there are key distinctions you should understand before pursuing one of them.

  • E1. The non-immigrant E1 classification allows citizens of certain countries to come to the U.S. to negotiate international trade. Eligible countries of origin are those with which the U.S. has entered into treaties of commerce or navigation. When someone is eligible for an E1 visa, their employees may also be eligible.
  • E2. Nationals from countries with which the U.S. has treaties in force may also be able to petition for an E2 visa based on their investment of capital into a U.S. business. As with the E1 visas, eligible nationals’ employees may also be able to enter the U.S. under the E2 visa program.
  • EB1-A. The EB1-A classification is designed solely for persons with “extraordinary abilities”, including scientists, artists, researchers, athletes, and musicians. This type of visa application takes priority over others, so processing times may be faster. Employers do not need to petition on behalf of their workers; individuals who have extraordinary abilities may petition for the EB1-A visas themselves.
  • EB1-B. The EB1-B classification is also a priority visa classification, and is designed for outstanding researchers and professors. Individuals may not sponsor themselves for this visa; they must be sponsored by a U.S. university or other institution of higher learning or a private employer who already employs at least three full-time researchers and meets certain other documentation requirements.
  • EB1-C. U.S. employers can also sponsor workers under the EB1-C visa classification when they want to hire multinational managers and executives. As with the other EB1 visas, EB1-C applications have priority over other non-EB1 petitions.
  • EB2. Doctors, managers, educators, and others who have a master’s degree or higher can qualify under the EB2 program and obtain permanent residence in the U.S.
    • EB2-A. Foreign nationals must meet the education requirement of the EB2 program and have a job offer from a U.S. business.
    • EB2-B. In addition to the job offer requirement, candidates for this classification must have exceptional abilities in the arts, sciences or business.
    • EB2-C(NIW). Foreign nationals who have either earned an advanced degree or have exceptional abilities may qualify for permanent residence under EB2-C(NIW) if they can show how their activities will substantially benefit the United States.
  • EB3. This visa classification is for people who want to pursue U.S. job opportunities requiring at least two years of experience or training, jobs requiring a baccalaureate degree (or equivalent education), and other jobs requiring less than two years of experience or training.
  • EB4. The EB4 category is an employment-based visa program reserved for specific immigrants, including religious workers, physicians, employees of international organizations, members of the armed forces, retired NATO-6 employees and their families, broadcasters, Iraqi/Afghan translators, and certain others.
  • H-1B. This type of visa allows employers in the U.S. to temporarily hire certain specialty workers who can live and work in the U.S. for up to three years, which can be extended to six years. This option is only available to foreign workers who have earned a U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher degree, or approved substitution, from an accredited university in the specialty field. When a worker qualifies under the H-1B program, their spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 can join them as their dependents.
  • L1. Global employers who have businesses in both the United States and in other countries may be able to sponsor workers for L1 visas. As with the H-1B visa, the L1 visa is a non-immigrant visa. Foreign employers who want to expand their business into the US may also be able to use the L1 visa classification to sponsor workers in the U.S. for a short period of time.
    • L1-A. Foreign employers can use the L1-A classification to send managers or company executives to the U.S. to work in company offices here.
    • L1-B. This classification allows foreign employers to send workers with specialized knowledge to the U.S. for a short time period to work in positions requiring that specialized knowledge.

Who Sponsors Employment-Based Visas?

Most commonly, employers sponsor the visa on behalf of the employee they want to come work for them. In certain cases, an employee may petition for the visa on their own.