There are a number of options that allow professionals to work and conduct business in the U.S.  Each of these has specific legal requirements, advantages and disadvantages.  

The H-1B Visa

  • Most common work visa for professionals
  • The job must be in a "specialty occupation," require at least a bachelor's degree and pay prevailing wage
  • Only 85,000 visas available each year - three times as many applications in 2016
  • Applications only accepted the first week of April each year
  • Maximum stay of six years


Treaty Work Visas for Professionals

  • TN Visa – Canada and Mexico
    • Must be on list of permitted professional occupations
    • Canadians can apply at the border with proper evidence
    • Initial visa valid for three years, but can renew indefinitely
  • E-3 Visa – Australia
    • Similar to H-1B, but available throughout the year
    • Valid for two years, but can renew indefinitely
    • Spouse can apply for work authorization
  • H-1B1 – Singapore and Chile
    • Same as the H-1B visa, but the maximum number has never been reach
    • Valid for up to 18 months, but can renew indefinitely


  • Petitioner is a U.S. company affiliated with a foreign company
  • Employee must have worked for foreign entity for at least one year overseas
  • Employee must be  a manager or executive (L-1A) OR have specialized knowledge (L-1B)
  • Spouse may apply for work authorization
  • Possible for a new US business affiliated with a foreign company (See New Office L-1 Visa)

Quasi-work Visas

  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) while on an F-1 student visa
  • Intern or Trainee under J-1 exchange visitor visa
  • Obtain work authorization as the spouse of a qualifying visa holder
  • Qualify for an L, E or O visa (see the Visas for Entrepreneurs practice area page)
  • Conduct business under an B- 1 business visa (See What Can You Do On A B visa?)

Employment-Based Green Cards

A professional may qualify to apply for a green card under several employment based (EB) categories.  Most of these applications require sponsorship by a U.S. employer.  All require significant amounts of factual evidence



  • EB-1A: Extraordinary ability in a specified field proved by sustained international and national acclaim - no employer necessary
  • EB-1B: Outstanding researchers and professors with national acclaim
  • EB-1C: Executives and managers transferred from a foreign company to a U.S. affiliate - similar to an L-1A visa


  • The job must require an advanced degree, such as an MBA or PhD
  • The employer must show they have attempted to recruit a U.S. citizen or green card holder and were unable to find a qualified candidate
  • If a candidate can show their employment will be in the national interest of the U.S. (such as cancer research), they can apply without a U.S. employer sponsor
  • Backlog for citizens from India (~ 9 years) and China (~4 years)


  • The job must require the equivalent of a four-year U.S. bachelor's degree
  • The employer must show they have attempted to recruit a U.S. citizen or green card holder and were unable to find a qualified candidate
  • Backlog for citizens of all countries, especially India (~12 years) & China (~11 years)