Career Planning Finding a Job U.S. Work Visas and Eligibility Requirements By Alison Doyle Alison Doyle Facebook Twitter Website Alison Doyle is one of the nation’s foremost career experts and has counseled both students and corporations on hiring practices. She has given hundreds of interviews on the topic for outlets including The New York Times, BBC News, and LinkedIn. Alison founded CareerToolBelt.com and has been an expert in the field for more than 20 years. learn about our editorial policies Updated on September 20, 2022 Fact checked by Lars Peterson Fact checked by Lars Peterson Website Lars Peterson is a veteran personal finance writer and editor with broad experience covering personal finance, particularly credit cards, banking products, and mortgages. He has been writing and editing for more than 20 years and has a knack for digging deep into a subject so he can make it easier for others to understand. As an editor for The Balance, he has assigned, edited, and fact-checked hundreds of articles. learn about our editorial policies Share Tweet Pin Email In This Article View All In This Article U.S. Work Visas Requirements U.S. Green Cards Green Card Lottery Programs Exchange Visitor Visas Temporary Work Visas (Non-Agricultural) Temporary Worker Visas (Skilled Workers) Seasonal Agricultural Worker Visas Eligibility To Work in the United States Photo: d3sign / Getty Images There are several types of work visas available to foreign nationals who want to work in the United States, including green cards (for permanent residency), temporary work visas, seasonal work visas, and exchange worker visas. The type of visa you may be eligible for will depend on the type of work you do, whether you have a relationship with an employer, and, in some cases, your country of origin. The guidelines for obtaining authorization to work in the United States vary depending on the type of visa and the eligibility requirements for that visa. Key Takeaways A visa provides entry into the United States, and depending on the type of visa, may allow you to work in the U.S.You may be able to become a permanent resident of the U.S. (a Green Card holder) through an employment offer or via a lottery.There are several temporary immigrant-worker visa programs, with varying requirements depending on the type of work and the industry, whether the labor is skilled, and seasonality. Learn more about the types U.S. work visa, including eligibility and requirements, plus information on how to apply for a visa. U.S. Work Visas Requirements What's a U.S. work visa and why do you need one? A visa is a document that provides authorization for travel to and admittance to the United States. Before visiting, working, or immigrating to the U.S., generally a citizen of a foreign country must first obtain a U.S. visa. The visa provides entry to the U.S. and, depending on the type of visa obtained, may provide authorization for employment in the U.S. Having a visa does not guarantee entry to the U.S. However, it does indicate that a consular officer at a U.S. embassy or consulate has determined you are eligible to seek entry for the specific purpose listed on the visa. Visas are obtained from the U.S. embassy or consulate closest to your residence abroad. U.S. Green Cards It is possible to become a permanent resident (Green Card holder) of the United States through a job or offer of employment. There is also a lottery program that provides a limited number of green cards to successful applicants. However, some categories require a certification from the U.S. Department of Labor to show that there are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available in the geographic area where the immigrant is to be employed and that no American workers are displaced by foreign workers. U.S. immigration law provides foreign nationals with a variety of ways to obtain a Green Card through employment in the United States. These employment-based (EB) “preference immigrant” categories include: (EB-1) - First preference for priority workers, including “foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics; outstanding professors and researchers; or certain multinational managers and executives.”(EB2) - Second preference for “foreign nationals who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or who have exceptional ability (including requests for national interest waivers).”(EB3) - Third preference for foreign nationals who are “skilled workers, professionals, or other workers.”(EB4)- Fourth preference for special immigrants like religious workers, neglected/abused juveniles, and retired officers or employees of certain international organizations, or NATO, and certain family members.(EB5) Fifth preference for immigrant investors, “foreign nationals who have invested or are actively in the process of investing [sums of at least] $1.05 million (or $800,000 in targeted employment areas) in a new commercial enterprise that will benefit the U.S. economy and create at least 10 full-time positions for qualifying employees.” Note U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has more information on how to apply for a Green Card. Green Card Lottery Programs The annual green card lottery program (Diversity Immigrant Visa Program) is an opportunity for potential immigrants to obtain the status as a permanent legal resident of the U.S. This program runs each year and provides green cards to applicants randomly selected in a lottery process—known as the Green Card Lottery. Applicants must apply far in advance of the actual date when they would like to enter the country. Exchange Visitor Visas U.S. Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visas are available to individuals approved to participate in work and study-based exchange visitor programs. These visas allow visitors to experience life in the U.S., before returning to their home countries with an appreciation for the American culture and lifestyle. As per the State Department, eligible categories of visitor for this visa type include au pairs, camp counselors, college students, interns, physicians, professors, scholars, teachers, and trainees. Temporary Work Visas (Non-Agricultural) U.S. Temporary Non-Agricultural (H-2B) visas are available to foreign workers in non-agricultural fields to work in the United States, provided there is an insufficient number of domestic laborers to fill the position. H-2B visas are generally used for jobs that are temporary, though not agricultural—for example, jobs at ski mountains, hotels, beach resorts, or amusement parks. Learn more about current requirements and restrictions at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Temporary Worker Visas (Skilled Workers) U.S. H1-B non-immigrant visas are for skilled, educated individuals employed in specialized occupations. The H1-B visa enables foreign workers to work temporarily for a specific employer in the United States. To apply, you must have an employee-employer relationship, work in a specific in-demand specialty occupation, and be paid above the prevailing wage for that job. Seasonal Agricultural Worker Visas U.S. Seasonal Agricultural Worker (H2-A) visas are available to foreign agricultural workers to work in the United States on a seasonal or temporary basis, provided there is a shortage of domestic workers. Visas are limited to three years and immigrants must originate from a country on the selected countries list. Note To learn more about the seasonal agricultural worker program process and requirements, see the USCIS website. Eligibility To Work in the United States When you have secured the appropriate visa, you will need to get a permit to work, which is officially known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), in order to prove you are eligible to work in the United States. The document provides proof to employers that you are legally permitted to work in the U.S.. You can review information on Employment Authorization Documents and how to acquire, renew, or replace them. Note Need more help? USA.gov has information on work requirements, visas, and getting hired for jobs in the United States. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Citizenship & Immigration Services. "Working in the United States." Homeland Security. "Get a Green Card. Citizenship & Immigration Services. "Green Card Through the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program." Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Green Card for Employment-Based Immigrants." Department of State. "Diversity Visa Program - Entry." Department of State. "Electronic Diversity Visa Lottery." Department of State. "Exchange Visitor Programs." Citizenship & Immigration Services. "H-2B Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers." Citizenship & Immigration Services. "H-1B Specialty Occupations, DOD Cooperative Research and Development Project Workers, and Fashion Models." Citizenship & Immigration Services. "H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers." Citizenship and Immigration Services. "Employment Authorization Document."