Visas for the USA

Regardless of whether foreigners are travelling to the USA on holiday or making a more permanent move to take up a new job, it is important to be aware of the different types of visas available for the USA. Here are the main visa categories that expats are likely to make use of.


Visitor visas for the USA

Nationals of certain countries may be present in the USA for up to 90 days without a visa. Those not eligible for the visa waiver programme will require a visitor visa. This visa is designed for temporary stays by international visitors and allows entry for those wishing to come to the USA to do business (a B-1 visa), those visiting as tourists (a B-2 visa), or a combination of both (B-1/B-2 visa).

All applicants must show evidence of funds to cover their expenses, evidence of economic and social ties abroad and evidence that they are permanently living outside of the USA.


Temporary work visas for the USA

There are several visa categories available for those wanting to work in the USA, with each category being specific to a particular kind of work. Most expats will apply for either the H-1B or the L visa. The H-1B visa is for people taking up positions in speciality occupations – in other words, workers with specific skills and knowledge who have completed higher education. The L visa is for employees of international companies who have been transferred to a branch within the USA.


Permanent residence in the USA

To stay permanently in the USA, expats will need to acquire a Permanent Resident Card, otherwise known as a Green Card. Expats moving to the USA permanently for work or investment purposes will fall in one of the following tiers:

  • Employment First Preference (E1): Priority Workers
  • Employment Second Preference (E2): Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability
  • Employment Third Preference (E3): Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)
  • Employment Fourth Preference (E4): Certain Special Immigrants
  • Employment Fifth Preference (E5): Immigrant Investors

In order to be eligible to make an application for permanent residence, expats will generally need someone to petition for or sponsor them. Most often this is an employer or family member in the USA, who must fill out the relevant forms to confirm their sponsorship. If the petition is approved, expats can then make their application for permanent residence.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

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