There are several temporary visas, which allow foreign professionals to work in the United States. In all of these options, there must be a petitioning entity that will offer employment to the foreign professional, sign all forms required by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), and provide evidence of the employment, either by an employment letter or an employment contract.
An H-1B Visa may be issued to a foreign professional who is qualified to perform services in a "specialty occupation," which generally means a professional position that requires a minimum of Bachelor Degree (or its equivalent), related to the position offered, to successfully perform the duties required by the position. It is an occupation that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge.
Equivalency of a Bachelor Degree can be determined by application of the "three-for-one" rule (i.e., three years of specialized training and/or work experience can be substituted for each year of college-level training which the beneficiary lacks).
Examples of a "specialty occupation" include but are not limited to some computer specialists (such as engineers, analysts, programmers), teachers, journalists, business analysts, high-level executives, marketing executives, accountants, physicians, etc.
TN Visas for Canadian and Mexican Professionals
The "TN Visa," is issued pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). INS regulations provide a list of over sixty (60) professions that qualify for the TN visa under NAFTA. Only Canadian and Mexican national or citizens are eligible for TN visas. This list includes, but is not limited to, Management Consultants, Social Workers, Engineers, Computer Systems Analysts, Accountants, etc. The minimum requirement is usually a Bachelor Degree.
L-1 Visa Intra-Company Transfers
When a foreign entity transfers an executive or manager to a newly formed or already existing US subsidiary, affiliate, or branch, the L-1 Visa is ideal for that Intra-company transferee. L-1 visas are available to professionals who have worked abroad for one continuous year within the preceding three years in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity for a foreign business entity (usually the transferring entity) and who are being transferred temporarily to the United States to work in that same capacity for a qualifying, related United States business entity.
O-1 Visas professionals with extraordinary ability in business or sciences
A foreign national who has extraordinary ability in the arts, athletics, sciences, education, or business, and is coming to the United States temporarily to perform services for a U.S. employer in his/her area of expertise may be granted an O-1 visa. "Extraordinary ability" means that the alien has reached a level of expertise indicating that he/she is one of a small percentage who have risen to the very top of his/her field of endeavor. Also, the position the alien is coming to fill must require the services of an individual of extraordinary ability.
The "arts" may also include aliens in the motion picture or television industry. To qualify for an O-1 visa, individuals in this industry are held to a slightly different standard that others applying for an O-1 visa. They must document "extraordinary achievement" through a demonstrated record of "distinction" or prominent. "Distinction" means a high level of achievement and skill substantially above that ordinarily encountered to the extent that the alien described as prominent is renowned, leading, or well-known in the field.
E Visas - Treaty Traders (E-1) and Investors (E-2)
Treaty visas are part of the United States' efforts to "enhance or facilitate economic and commercial interaction between the United States and the treaty country. The three main types of commercial treaties are treaties of friendship, commerce, and navigation (FCNs); bilateral investment treaties (BITs); and free trade agreements, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Depending on the exact language of a treaty, and the treaty country's reciprocal treatment of U.S. nationals, nationals of a particular foreign state may be admitted to the US as both treaty traders (E- I) and treaty investors (E-2), or only as one or the other.
The E-2 Investor Visa is issued to an investor that enters the United States, based upon treaty between the US and the country of which he/she is a national, to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the alien has invested, or is actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital. Generally, nationals of the treaty country must own 50 percent of the business in question. The investor must show that he or she has either made a substantial investment or is actively in the process of making a substantial investment in the enterprise. "In the process of investing," the investor must be close to the start of actual business operations, not simply in the stage of signing contracts (which may be broken) or scouting for suitable locations and property. Mere intent to invest, or possession of uncommitted funds in a bank account, or even prospective investment arrangements entailing no commitment, will not suffice.
The E-1 Trader Visa is issued to a foreign business individual that enters the United States, based upon a treaty between the US and the country of which he/she is a national, to carry on substantial trade in goods, services, or technology in a capacity that is supervisory or executive in nature or involves essential skills. Trade means the exchange, purchase, or sale of goods and/or services. The trade must (1) constitute an exchange between the United States and the treaty country and must be traceable or identifiable, (2) be international in scope, and (3) involve qualifying activities.