Nationals of certain countries may travel to 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.
Also known as non-immigrant visas, temporary worker visas allow applicants to reside and work in the US while processing their Permanent Resident Card, otherwise known as a Green Card.
There are a number of 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.
To gain eligibility for permanent residence, expats will need someone to petition for or sponsor them. Most often this is an employer or family member in the US, 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. The Green Card also grants the right to work in the USA.
When applying through employment, there are three parts to the process: obtaining labour certification, filing an immigrant petition and, finally, submitting the permanent residence application.
Expats taking up work in the USA can reside in the country under a temporary worker visa while their immigrant visa is being processed. Alternatively, they can wait in their home country until final approval, at which point they would emigrate.