What Are The Main US Business Visas?

DavidsonMorris | View firm profile

If you are planning to spend time in the US on business, there are many different types of US visa you will need to consider. 

Each US visa category of course has varying requirements and eligibility criteria, that are largely complex and requiring specialist guidance to ensure you are applying for the most appropriate category and that your application is as strong as it needs to be.

The main US business visas to consider would be the E visas, the L visas, the H1B and the O visa. 

The H1B visa is for professionals in a specialty occupation who want to work for a US company. The H1B visa is subject to many restrictions, including a limit on the number of visas granted per year.

It’s important for US employers and their potential applicant employees to plan ahead and get the application process right, as the application window and number of H1B visas are limited and highly over-subscribed. 

The E-1 visa is for companies or individuals from Treaty countries who are already trading or selling goods and services to US customers, and want to further that trade by setting up an office in the US to build that trade further. 

The E-2 visa offers individual holders temporary permission to come to the US either to set up or invest in a company.

The company must first apply to be registered as an E-2 treaty investor business, and the applicant must also have already made significant investment in the US business prior to making the E-2 visa application – with no guarantees of success.

The L1 visa is for intra-company transferees. This would be for someone working for a non-US company for at least one year who then wants to transfer to the US subsidiary.

The individual applicant either has to hold a managerial position or a specialised knowledge role. There are many restrictions on how specialty roles are defined and granted.

The O-1 visa is for extraordinary ability workers. Applicants must show they have reached a high level of recognition in their profession as evidenced by awards, memberships to prestigious organisations, or some novel, unique contribution to the field. The O-1 visa is not subject to an annual cap, but applicants will require a US sponsor to apply for the visa. 

The B-1 visa allows individuals not eligible to travel under the US Visa Waiver Program to carry out business-related activity within the US during a time-limited visit.

Qualifying for a B-1 visa is not automatic. To be eligible, you must evidence you will be participating in business activities of a commercial or professional nature while in the US. B-1 visitors are also not able to bring dependants; they must apply separately under their own B-2 visa.

There will be a lot at stake when selecting the right visa for your needs, and making your submission to the US authorities. Many other considerations will need to be factored in in addition, such as your nationality, immigration and criminal history and status of any applicant dependents.

Seek specialist advice from a US immigration lawyer to ensure you avoid errors, omissions or delays that could jeopardise your ability to come to the US for work purposes. 

More from DavidsonMorris