How to Get An American Work Visa
The ‘American Dream’ is a common phrase used as a vision or goal for anyone being able to attain success and wealth through hard work and dedication. That goes for both American citizens and potential immigrants from around the world who may want to make a move to the U.S. to chase their dreams and chase opportunity.
There are so many opportunities and industries available, with the potential for just about anyone to become the success they dream to be. It may not always be easy or equal for everyone, but the chance is there whether you want to work with technology, in business, become a professional athlete, artist, musician or actor in Hollywood.
But, the important thing to know is where to start, as moving to the United States, and even more importantly working (legally) in the United States isn’t as easy as just hopping on a plane and seeing “I’m here!” There are various steps to follow, and you’ll need a permit, or visa, to work (and live) in the United States. There are various rules and steps to follow depending on your industry and what your goals are, so this guide is designed to help you figure out the ins and outs of being granted permission to work and live in the United States, and what to do when you get here!
Do I Need A Work Visa?
The short answer is yes, you’ll definitely need a work visa to legally work in the United States, but the type of visa or permit you get may vary depending on the purpose of your work and how long you intend to be in the United States. Luckily, there are many resources available to help you figure out the right one you need. In fact, the State Department has a tool that helps you figure out the exact visa for you, filling out information about you, your work and how long you plan to stay that will suggest the best option for you.
Short-term stays may not require a full-visa, but there’s likely still some sort of permit or permission you need if any form of business is taking place. It’s important to take it seriously, as the United States government is very serious about it. If you’re caught breaking the visa rules, you may be banned from entering the country for 5 years, which isn’t worth it just to save some time on paperwork and documentation. If you know you have a work trip, or plan on staying long-term for work, make sure you get the correct permit or visa and give yourself plenty of time to make sure everything is above board, and you have no issues.
How Do I Get A Work Visa?
The State Department is where you go for any visa application, and thus all visa information as well. They have all the information you need on the plethora of visas available, and what one you need for your particular circumstance.
If you’re looking to move and work in the United States full-time, you’ll probably need to apply for the employment visa, which is the primary visa used. The nature of your work and stay determines the exact visa you’ll need, as they vary based on job-type and length. A nonimmigrant visa will cover you for employment that has a fixed start date and end date, covering you only for the dates of that term. If you’re looking to stay on a permanent basis, you’ll need an immigrant visa, which signifies that you’ll be moving to the United States full-time. Down the line, you’ll be able to apply for a Green card, or Legal Permanent Resident card, which gives you many of the same rights and protections under the Constitution as an American citizen.
The important thing to know about these work visas is that you’ll need a job first, as an employer will have to file a petition for you, certifying that you have a job offer, the terms of the job offer and more. Without a job first, you may need to look into another visa or permit, or simply wait until you are offered a job in the United States.
Once you’ve been offered a job, the process starts with labor certification from your prospective employer. They’ll have to go to the Department of Labor for the certification, and once received they’ll need to file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker form with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. There are various categories and sub-categories to consider and file under appropriately.
Another important note about visas, and immigrant employment visas, going into the petition process is to know that there are often caps put on how many petitions are accepted each year. So, it is possible you’ll find yourself in a circumstance where your petition is denied, even if you meet all the criteria. If that’s the case, as disappointing as it may be, it doesn’t mean you’ll never be accepted. As they’re processed and issued in the order they’re filed, the date you file is important and as soon as you’ve received the offer you and your employer will want to get started right away.
When you have been approved, the next step sends the petition to the National Visa Center, where upon meeting the appropriate date (based on a priority date assigned which itself is based on your filing date), you’ll have to fill out more forms and pay the appropriate fees. Your immigration lawyer will help you sort through every, and make sure you don’t miss anything. Fees may include the actual filing fee, processing fees, medical examination and vaccination fees, immigration lawyer fees and other administrative or travel fees that may come up.
Once your application through the National Visa Center is complete, they’ll send your petition to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you’ll have a Visa Interview. You’ll be assigned a visa date (along with your medical examination) where you’ll be interviewed by a consular officer about your application and all the details. This is the last major step, as the officer will make the final determination as to whether or not you’re eligible. You’ll need to bring specific documentation and once approved you’ll have digital fingerprints scanned, receive your official documents and be notified of your next steps.
Getting your visa can be a long and stressful experience, often taking months (maybe years), so make sure you’re on top of every step to make it as smooth as it can possibly be!
What documents Do I Need?
While the documentation you require may vary slightly based on your individual circumstance, for most situations the typical documentation you need includes:
-Passport: At all stages of the application process you’ll need to have a valid passport that won’t expire for at least six months after the date you intend to enter the United States. In certain circumstances, they may require more time, but you’ll need a minimum of six months. This is your primary form of identification and an absolute must-have part of the entire process.
-Two 2x2 Photos: You can see all the requirements for your visa photos on the government website, but the photos are an important and critical part of the application process, used for important documentation and records.
-Civil Documents: Like all of the documents, you’ll want to check exact needs on the government website, but you’ll want to bring any original copies of civil documents such as birth and marriage certificates, along with photocopies of them, and if required translated versions for their records. At the end of the process, the original documents should be returned to you.
-Financial Support: An important part of the visa interview is to prove that you won’t become a financial burden for the government, so you’ll want to be sure you have documents to prove your current financial status and where you’ll be receiving financial support from.
-Medical Exam Forms: The last primary document you need are forms proving you’ve completed your required medical examination and vaccinations, which will be provided by the physician upon completion.
Part-Time, Fixed Term, and Seasonal Visas
If you’re only going to be in the United States temporarily, you’ll need to apply for a nonimmigrant employment visa, looking at the various categories available based on the nature of the job, the length of your stay, etc.
The process is largely the same as coming in on a permanent basis, with some slight differences you’ll want to know, but one of the biggest requirements is proving that you’ll be leaving. They may ask to prove that you have good reason to go home, and show that you’ve kept up relationships, residency and more in your home country.
If upon arrival you later realize you’ll need to stay longer, it is possible to apply for an extended stay, though approval isn’t guaranteed.
American Visa Entrepreneur
As an entrepreneur, the application process is largely the same, but you may have a bit more of a struggle to prove the financial support area of the application especially. If you have an existing business that you’re looking to move to expand into the United States, it’s much easier, and more likely you’ll be granted approval as you can prove you have an existing revenue stream and a level success.
You can also apply for temporary business visas that will allow you to attend business meetings, conventions, conferences, and consultations, or allow you to negotiate contracts. These are generally easier to receive, so long as you can prove there’s an actual event to attend or a contract to be negotiated.
Can My Family Get A Visa Too?
Your spouse and children (under age 21) will be able to apply alongside you for a visa, leveraging your acceptance for their own. Their acceptance is largely based on the financial support aspect of your interview, as you’ll need to prove you are able to support them financially (as well as yourself). There may be some other criteria, and if you aren’t approved they won’t be either, but the financial support is the most critical part of their approval for a visa.
What Do I Do Next After I Receive My Visa?
Once you’ve been approved and received your visa, there are some important steps you’ll want to take to get settled. The most important is getting a Social Security Number, as its required for all American citizens and residents to have one to work. From there, you’ll want to do the other normal parts of life, setting up a bank account, finding a place to live and getting started at the job you were approved for. Your new life in the United States has started, so make the most of it!
How Do I Transfer Money To My US Bank Account?
At some point, you’ll need to start transferring money over to your new American bank account and exchanging it for United States Dollars. This process can be costly through the bank, but if you’re a Canadian immigrating to the United States, there’s an easy and cost-effective way to do; Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange.
With Knightsbridge Foreign Exchange, you can connect both your Canadian and US dollar bank accounts, allowing you to transfer with no added fees, and the best USD exchange rates in Canada. The bank typically adds a markup of about 3% to the base exchange rate, with our rates coming in about 2-2.5% lower on average. On a $100,000 exchange, that would be a $2,000-$2,500 savings, which makes a significant difference for a move this big.
We make other transfers and payments easier as well, as we’re able to make payments for you (including if you’re buying a home), in the same process of having no transfer fees, and always providing you with the best USD exchange rates in Canada.
We make it easy to make a move from Canada to the United States by using the best currency exchange services in Canada!