A Guide to Non-immigrant US Work & Student Visas: F-1, H-1B and L-1 S

08 Mar 2023 - Category: Blog /
immigrant visas

The United States offers several non-immigrant visas to foreign workers who wish to work in the country. These include the F-1 student visa, the H-1B work visa, and the L-1 visa. The F-1 visa is for students who want to pursue academic or language training programs. The H-1B visa is for foreign workers in specialty occupations such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The L-1 visa is for intracompany transferees who have worked for a foreign affiliate of a U.S. company for at least one year in the past three years. This article provides an overview of these visas, their requirements, and the steps involved in obtaining them.


How Many U.S. Visas?

While there are about 185 different types of U.S. visas, there are two main categories: Non-immigrant visas, for temporary stays such as for tourism, business, family visits, study, work, or transit; Immigrant visas: for permanent residence in the United States. Here, we’ll be focusing on non-immigrant visas, covering the F-1, H-1B, and L-1 visas in depth.

Your Guide to the F-1, H-1B & L-1 Visas

The F-1 student visa

What is an F-1 Visa?

The F-1 student visa is for students who want to pursue academic or language training programs. The F-1 visa permits you entry to the United States as a student at an accredited college, university, or other relevant educational establishments.

F-1 Student Visa Requirements:

  • A within-date passport.
  • A copy of the photo you will use for your visa.
  • Printed copies of your I-901 SEVIS and DS-160 payment confirmations.
  • A filled-out I-20 form.
  • School transcript alongside official test scores cited on your university application.
  • Diploma (not obligatory.).
  • Bank statements or other proof of finances.

How do you Apply for an F-1 Visa?

Be Accepted at an SEVP Approved School

To apply for a F1 student visa for the USA, you must be accepted for enrollment by a school approved by the SEVP.

Pay your SEVIS Fee & Receive your I-20

Once you’re accepted, you have to pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee ($350) to be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Following this, your academic institution will provide you with a Form I-20.

Complete your Visa Application

The process for finalizing a F1 student visa application can vary depending on the consulate or U.S. embassy you are dealing with.

At this stage, you will have to pay the non-refundable visa application fee. You can also complete your visa application online, where you can complete and print the DS-160 form to take to your F1 visa interview.

Schedule & Attend your F1 Visa Interview

You can schedule your F1 visa interview with the consulate or U.S. embassy of your choice. Wait times for interview appointments vary by season, location, and visa category.

Be sure to schedule relatively early as your visa will only be accepted by your academic institution, provided it’s been issued 30-120 prior to the start of the academic year.

This interview determines whether you are qualified to receive an F1 student visa for the USA. If you’ve provided all the required documentation, your application is likely to be approved.

The H-1B work visa

What is a H-1B Visa

The H-1B non-immigrant visa is for foreign workers in specialty occupations such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Only 65,000 H-1B visas are issued worldwide per year, with an additional 20,000 visas for U.S. Master’s degree holders.

H-1B Work Visa Requirements:

The H-1B Work Visa Requirements are

  • You qualify for the H1B visa if you are accepted in a specific job position that has the following requirements.
  • A four-year Bachelor’s Degree (or equivalent degrees).
  • A Master’s or Doctoral Degree.
  • Advanced training or vocational skills (examples include fashion models).
  • Qualify to work in research and development projects of the U.S. Department of Defense or other government positions.

Examples of job positions might be:

  • I.T. specialists.
  • Professors.
  • Accountants.
  • Doctors.
  • Lawyers.

How do you Apply for an H-1B Visa?

Enter the “Lottery.”

The opening date for filing H1B work visa petitions is April 1st each year and closes around the end of October. However, in 2021, a new electronic registration system was introduced for all H-1B cap-subject petitions, allowing applicants to pre-register online throughout March. If you are chosen during this stage, you will then be able to apply for the H-1B visa.

Once selected, your employer can begin the visa application process by filing a petition on your behalf. To do this, your employer is required to submit a Labor Condition Application (LCA) to the Department of Labor (DOL) for Certification.

Complete the Form I-129

During this step, you will need to show evidence of a petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker and file the LCA and I-129 form to USCIS, alongside the required fees and additional documentation.

These other documents could include evidence of your education, training certificates, or professional membership documents. You may also be asked for a confirmation letter of employment, your resume, a letter of support, and any added fees.

Start Working

If your Form I-129 is approved, your ability to begin working depends on whether you're residing in the United States or not.

If you are already in the United States on a separate visa category, you must wait for your H-1B visa status to become active before you start working.

If you are outside the United States, you will have to apply for consular processing. For the application, you are required to complete Form DS-160. You will also have to pay an application fee and schedule an interview at a consulate or U.S. embassy near you.

The L-1 work visa

What is an L-1 Visa

The L-1 visa is a temporary work and residence permit for the United States. This non-immigrant visa category allows internal staff transfers within a company group. The L-1 visa is for intracompany transferees who have worked for a foreign affiliate of a U.S. company for at least one year in the past three years.

L-1 Visa Requirements:

Under United States immigration law, a worker qualifies for an L-1 visa if they have been employed outside the U.S. by the sponsoring company for at least one year of the past three years. They also must be transferred to the U.S. to work as a manager, executive, or specialized knowledge worker.

To qualify for the L 1 visa, you are required to have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate, or branch office of a U.S. company outside of the U.S. for at least one year or the last three years. Spouses of L-1 visa holders are permitted to work without restriction in the U.S. under the L-2 visa.

How do you Apply for an L-1 Visa?

Get a transfer offer

Your employer, who has a branch, affiliate, subsidiary, or parent company in the U.S., has to give an intra company transfer offer in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge position, starting your application process.

File Form I-129

When filling out an I-129 form, there are two roads you can go down. There are individual petitions that are primarily handled between the worker and their employer and an L1 blanket petition that involves multiple employees under a corporation. The employer will submit the form and pay the adjacent fees.

File Form DS-160.

The DS-160 form is required for most visa applications, including the L1 visa. You can find the form online. It requires applicants to submit the necessary information and details concerning their intent to go to the U.S. After you have submitted your DS-160, you will receive a confirmation page and number, which you need to keep for later on. Around this time, you will also pay the L1 visa application fee of $190.

Schedule your L1 visa interview

Once you have paid your L-1 visa application fee, you must conduct an interview with the officials of the U.S. Embassy that you are applying from.

You will also need to submit your L1 visa documents for United States immigration to review.

Attend your interview

You will be interviewed by an official from the U.S. Embassy you applied to. The official will try to gauge your intentions for traveling to the U.S. and wants you to prove that your transfer is true and that you will be working in the U.S. If your interview goes well, your visa will be processed, and you can go and get your passport stamped.

F-1, H-1B, and L-1 are all non-immigrant visas that are issued to both students and workers, granting them access to the US, residency, and permission to study or work there. If you need additional information or assistance in completing your visa application, can help through their several advice and guidance.

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