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Visa Breakdown – Part One

Here is the concise visa breakdown.

The hypothesis that will be used in the breakdown is that you are “a writer in Europe or Canada who wants to be able to work as a writer in the U.S.A. and has no immediate relative there”.

I will probably dedicate posts for a couple of these different visas as time goes by, but for now I wanted to give an overall guide to the various options.

All that you see here is from my own research. I am not an immigration lawyer, so if you’re seriously considering any of these options do your own research, don’t hold my word for it! That said, I’m not going to start inventing facts as I’m in the same situation anyway.

Two main categories of Visas can be distinguished:
A) Temporary Visas (or non-immigrant)
B) Green Cards (or immigrant)

In this post I will talk about the Temporary AKA Non-immigrant Visas.

A) Non-immigrant Visas

For work-related visas, your stay in the US on a non-immigrant visa will primarily be dependant on your job (or lack of).
Basically you have to have a job offer before even going to the U.S. which is difficult, to say the least, in our field of work. Your employer must fill tons of forms proving that you are the only one that can be able to do the task at hand instead of one of the other 300+ million Americans. The reason for all that is to show that you won’t become a “burden” to the U.S.
The duration of your visa is also dependant on the duration of your job, with each visa having a limitation.

The most used and known about work visa is the H-1B visa.
Duration of stay: 3 years, extendible to 6 max. A few (complicated) exceptions give an extended year or three at best.
What it is about: This visa allows a U.S. employer to employ foreign workers skilled in specialty occupations, but only when qualified U.S. citizens or residents are not available.
What’s the problem?: The main point here is that you need a specific job offer from an employer willing to give time to help with the visa process.
Not so easy if you want to be a PA right?
You must also have at least a bachelor’s degree and if a miracle happens and you get your H-1B visa, you are basically tied to your current job.

A rare visa to obtain (only if you already have somewhat of a carreer) is the O-1 visa.
Duration of stay: As long as your job lasts.
What it is about: You need to have “extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or extraordinary achievements in the motion picture and television field”. This is mostly proven by “sustained national or international acclaim”. Also, you need a job in the US.
What’s the problem?: Again, you need a job before applying for the visa. Not to mention the “international acclaim” thingy.
If you indeed have a strong carreer (and acclaim), and intend to move to the U.S., you should look over to the E1/E2 Green Card (cf my next post on the Green Cards).

For Canadians and Mexicans only, there is also the TN-1 visa.
I haven’t done much research on this one since I’m neither Canadian nor Mexican but what I know is this:
Duration of stay: 1 year, extensible indefinitely as long as the job is alive
What it is about: Basically same as a H-1B visa, but with a better “duration of stay” (as long as you have the job).
What’s the problem?: Your job must be among those in this list. Also, same as H-1B, you must have a job offer and everything before applying.

There is also another common one, although not work-related. I am talking of the F-1 visa, or student visa. If I get accepted in one of my colleges, I will most probably be applying for one.
Duration of stay: It goes without saying that this visa is tied to your education, therefore the duration of an F-1 visa will depend on the duration of your enrolment.
What it is about: A student-only visa given through academic institutions. That means that you must first be accepted by a school/college (where you’ll then receive special forms) before applying for an F-1. This visa is only for academic studies (or language training), not for vocational eduction (that is an M visa).
What’s the problem?: The main problem is that you are not allowed to work, save for “practical training” (meaning mainly internships) and sometime college work. For this kind of work you need a prior authorization from the USCIS, extra headache. You also can’t apply for Social Security (although this depends on your work-status) nor Medicare.

You could go to a community college (therefore have an F-1 visa) and whilst you are “over there” start looking for work that could fit an H-1B or TN-1 visa, although I’m not sure how useful that would be ultimately.

There are tons of other non-immigrant visas out there but those I thought were the main ones regarding the “writing field” were put here.

Next up tommorow: Green Cards.

If you have questions please feel free to email me or post a comment.

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