There are many different options for US temporary work visas. Before a foreign national can engage in employment within the United States, proper US immigration work visa work authorization must be obtained. Work Authorization is most often obtained by filing a petition with US Citizenship and Immigration Services. If you are seeking employment, seek to employ a foreign national, or have received an offer of employment, and have not received employment authorization, you cannot begin your employment until you receive employment authorization.
Here’s who is (and who isn’t) authorized to work in the United States on a temporary work visa. (Generally, persons who fall within the second, third, or fourth categories below must apply for work authorization prior to working in the United States.)
1. Persons authorized for a US Work Visa for a specific employer.
If you have obtained visa status under any of the following visa classifications, you are authorized to work in the US, but only for the specific employer connected to your visa.
- E-1 Visas for Treaty Traders
- E-2 Visas for Treaty Investors
- H-1B Visas for Specialty Occupations, DOD Cooperative Research & Development Project Workers, and Fashion Models
- I Visas for Representatives of Foreign Media
- L-1 Visas for Business Expansion into the United States (L-1A for executives or managers, or L-1B for employees with specialized knowledge)
- O-1 Visas for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement
- P-1A Visas for Athletes
- P-1B Visas for Members of an Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group
- P-3 Visas for Artists or Entertainers Coming to Be Part of a Culturally Unique Program
- R-1 Visas for Nonimmigrant Religious Workers
- TN Visas for NAFTA Professionals
2. Persons authorized for a US Work Visa.
- K-3 or K-4 Nonimmigrant Visa holders. Immigration law allows the alien spouse of a US citizen and their minor children to be admitted to the United States as nonimmigrants while they are awaiting the adjudication of a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. It also allows them to obtain employment authorization while they are waiting.
- Victims of Human Trafficking. T nonimmigrant status is a temporary immigration benefit that enables certain victims of a severe form of trafficking in persons) to remain in the United States for an initial period of up to 4 years if they have complied with any reasonable request for assistance from law enforcement in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of human trafficking or qualify for an exemption or exception. T nonimmigrant status is also available to certain qualifying family members of trafficking victims. T nonimmigrants are eligible for employment authorization and certain federal and state benefits and services. T nonimmigrants who qualify may also be able to adjust their status and become lawful permanent residents (obtain a Green Card).
- Victims of Criminal Activity. The U nonimmigrant status (U Visa) is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of noncitizens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The legislation also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes.
- Spouses of L-1 Visa holders and E Visa holders. As of November 12, 2021, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has extended automatic work authorization incident to status to include the spouses of both E Visa and L-1 Visa holders. This means that the qualifying spouse of E Visa and L-1 Visa holders are not required to obtain a work authorization document (EAD) prior to commencing work. They simply need to provide either their I-797 Approval or their valid I-94. They are also able to immediately apply for and obtain a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN). (Learn how spouses of L-1 Visa and E Visa holders get work authorization.)
3. Persons who must apply for permission to work.
- K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa holders. The fiancé(e) K-1 nonimmigrant visa is for the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) of a US citizen. The K-1 Visa permits the foreign-citizen fiancé(e) to travel to the United States and marry their sponsor within 90 days of arrival. (Learn more about the K-1 Visa.)
- Foreign nationals from a country under Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The Secretary of Homeland Security may designate a foreign country for TPS due to conditions in the country that temporarily prevent the country’s nationals from returning safely, or in certain circumstances, where the country is unable to handle the return of its nationals adequately. USCIS may grant TPS to eligible nationals of certain countries (or parts of countries), who are already in the United States. Eligible individuals without nationality who last resided in the designated country may also be granted TPS.
- V Nonimmigrant Visa holders. The V Visa is a nonimmigrant visa created to allow families to stay together while waiting for the processing of immigrant visas.
- Refugees. A refugee is someone who is located outside of the United States, is of special humanitarian concern to the United States, demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group, is not firmly resettled in another country, and is admissible to the United States.
- Parolees. A parolee is an alien, appearing to be inadmissible to the inspecting officer, allowed into the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or when that alien’s entry is determined to be for significant public benefit.
4. Some persons who have filed an adjustment of status application.
If you are a visa holder that has filed for an adjustment of status, you may need to apply for work authorization under your new status.
Additional Outside Resources
- USCIS: Employment Authorization Document
- USCIS: I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
- USCIS: Adjustment of Status
- USCIS: I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
We Can Help!
Don’t know where to start? The US immigration lawyers at Richards and Jurusik have more than 20 years of combined experience helping foreign nationals apply for work authorization. Contact us to begin with a free assessment.