Quick guide to US
8 June 2021
The immigration system in the United States of America offers multiple visa categories for foreign nationals wishing to enter the US either temporarily or on a permanent basis.
In this article, we look at some of the most popular US immigration categories for work or business activities and put a brief description to their names. This glossary style document starts with defining some of the key terms in US immigration before we go on to the categories themselves.
US immigration key terms
- A petition: An employer’s sponsorship request to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that can support the grant of a particular immigration status or visa.
- Status: An individual’s legal immigration status in the US
- Visa: A travel document issued by the US Department of State. A visa only needs to be valid when a person is seeking to enter the US.
- Immigrant Visas: Categories where the individual intends to live and work permanently in the US.
- Non-Immigrant Visas: Categories where the stay will be temporary.
- ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation): Digital travel authorisation to travel to the USA.
- B-1: Business visits (with limited activities)
- L-1A: Intra-company Transfer of executive/managerial roles
- L-1B: Intra-company Transfer of specialised knowledge roles
- L-2: Spouses of the above visa holders (work permitted)
- E-1 Treaty Trader (for those with “substantial” trade in goods or services with the US)
- E-2 Treaty Investor (for those with “substantial” investment to start up a US business operation)
- H-1B Specialty Occupation (A specialty occupation is a position that normally requires a Bachelor Degree level of education in a specific field)
- H-4: Spouses of the above (work permitted)
- O-1: Extraordinary Ability (“extraordinary ability” in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics)
- O-3: Spouses of the above (no work permitted)
- TN USMCA (former NAFTA): Citizen of Canada or Mexico AND the profession must qualify under the professional positions outlined in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)
- F-1/OPT/CPT: Students on Optional/Curricular Practical Training
- EB-1A: For individuals with “extraordinary ability”
- EB-1B: For “outstanding researchers”
- EB-1C: For multinational executives and managers
- NIW: For individuals whose work benefits the national interests of the US; can include entrepreneurs and business professionals
- EB-2 & EB-3/PERM: For employees in professional occupations
Support with US immigration
If you have any US immigration queries including which visa category is right for you, please contact the SSW global immigration team. We are able to provide full support with the visa application process and also post–arrival assistance.
With the help of our global network, we are well equipped to navigate international law and assist with the processing of your visa, whilst ensuring that local immigration rules are met thereafter.