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Specialty Occupations (H1B)

In order to be eligible for an H1B, a foreign national must have a job offer from a U.S. employer, which requires a bachelor's degree or equivalent in a field of specialized knowledge. The foreign national/prospective employee must possess the minimum of a bachelor's degree or its equivalent. The employer must pay a salary commensurate with the prevailing wage rate for persons in that occupation and geographic location. A limited number of H1Bs are issued each year. H1Bs are typically valid for three-years, with a standard maximum duration of six years. Examples of positions considered specialty occupations in this category include: accountants, computer programmers, graphic designers, industrial designers, teachers, journalists, researchers, physicians, and scientists.

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Temporary / Seasonal Workers (H2B)

The H2B category is designed for strictly temporary employment, which must be classified as one-time, seasonal, peak-load, or intermittent. The employer's need must be for no more than ten months in any year. H2B visas typically are used in industries such as forestry, seafood processing, resorts, and landscaping. There is an annual limit on the number of H2Bs that can be issued, however some persons who have previously held H2B visas are cap exempt. In order to qualify for an H2B, the employer must obtain a temporary labor certification from the Department of Labor (DOL), which requires that the employer pursue recruitment efforts in order to attempt to locate qualified U.S. workers. It is advised that an employer attempt to obtain approvals for multiple beneficiaries on one labor certification and one H2B petition.

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Exchange Visitors (J-1)

Many organizations and educational institutions may qualify to sponsor persons as exchange visitors on J-1 visas. There are various types of J-1 programs. These include: students, professors and research scholars, physicians, teachers, trainees, au pairs, and summer student workers. Persons with skills listed on the Exchange Visitors' Skills list, and those participating in government-funded programs or graduate medical training must comply with a two-year, home-residency requirement before they are eligible to change status in the U.S. or obtain an H1B, L-1, or Permanent Resident status. However, waivers of the two-year, home residency requirement are available in some circumstances

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Treaty Traders (E-1) and Treaty Investors (E-2)

Current law provides nonimmigrant visa status for a national of a country with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation, who is coming to the U.S. to carry on substantial trade, including trade in services or technology, or to develop and direct the operations of an enterprise in which the national has invested, or is in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital. E-1/E-2 visa holders are generally admitted for a period of 2 years. Journalists and Other Media (I VISAS) Journalists and media workers can qualify for the I-visa if they are being assigned to reside in the U.S. as representatives of a foreign press, radio, film, or other information medium that has a home office in a foreign country and the applicant's government allows for reciprocal visas to U.S. media. The list of treaty countries is subject to change as new treaties are signed and ratified. However, the most recent list can be found on the U.S. Department of State website.

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Intra-Company Transferees (L-1)

The L-1 visa allows persons to come to the U.S. to work temporarily if they are being transferred by their company to the U.S. and will continue to work for the same company. In order to qualify for a L visa, persons must have worked abroad for the company for at least 1 of the 3 preceding years, and must have worked as an executive or manager for the company or have specialized knowledge. To get a L visa, persons need a specific job offer from a qualified employer in the U.S. With L status, visa holders are allowed to remain in the U.S. for a maximum of seven years.

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Trade NAFTA (TN, Canada and Mexico)

The TN category is a potential option for citizens of Canada and Mexico. There is no numerical limit or cap on the number of TNs that may be issued. The category is for professionals, engaged in a specified list of occupations, many of which relate to professionals in the science industry. The applicants must possess specified degrees, credentials and licenses, appropriate to the particular profession. All TNs must have job offers from U.S. employers, with the exception of management consultants. TN visas are generally valid for one-year, but may be extended without any maximum limit. Unlike most other visas, there is no initial filing with the USCIS. The applications are made either at the port of entry for Canadians or at the consulate for Mexicans.

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Other Temporary Employment-based Visas

Other temporary, employment-based visas are also available for persons of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business, or athletics (O-1/O-2); athletes and entertainers (P); religious workers (R-1); and family members of the aforementioned categories.