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Understanding Temporary Employment Visas

Written By The Shapiro Law Group on November 15, 2015

Foreign workers who enter the United States on temporary employment visas come from various occupations. These include technology specialists, scientists, researchers, nurses, agricultural workers, religious workers, athletes, and artists. All workers are required to obtain permission to work legally and adhere to the terms of their petition for their temporary employment visa. Specific category requirements for each occupation must also be met. Since requirements vary with each employment category, an immigration lawyer in Chicago can explain specific visa and category requirements to eliminate confusion and errors. Any violation of requirements can result in denial or removal of a temporary employment visa.

Temporary employment visas are restricted to persons who want to enter the U.S. for employment lasting a fixed period of time, typically three years. They are not meant for permanent or indefinite stays. All temporary employment visas require prospective employers to file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on behalf of employees for temporary employment. An approved petition must be issued before applying for a work visa. Complications that often arise with the filing process, required documents, and visa restrictions can be resolved through an immigration lawyer in Chicago.

H-1B Work Visas

H-1B visas are among the most popular types of temporary employment visas. They are issued to skilled, educated individuals who will be employed in a specialty occupation within the United States. The H-1B visa allows a foreign worker to work for a specific employer in the U.S. for up to three years, but the visa can be extended for up to six years through an immigration lawyer in Chicago. The H-1B visa requires that the foreign worker must continue to work for the petitioning employer during the entire length of stay. Any change in job requires a Change of Employer petition by the foreign worker.

To be eligible for an H-1B visa, the sponsored job position must require at least a 4 year U.S. degree or its academic equivalent and the sponsored individual must have at least a U.S. Bachelor’s Degree or its equivalent allowing the individual to perform the duties of the sponsored position. If the sponsored individual does not have a University degree, USCIS will accept a degree equivalent based on a combination of education and up to twelve years of experience. In fields where a state license is required, the visa applicant must also be licensed. There are numerous H-1B employment categories that can be verified through an immigration lawyer in Chicago when applying for an Illinois temporary employment visa.

Employers must petition for H-1B visas on behalf of foreign workers who meet the requirements, and they can begin the petition process up to six months before the expected work date. The annual U.S. cap for H-1B visas is 65,000, but the first 20,000 petitions filed for workers with a Master’s Degree or higher are exempt from the cap. Workers employed by government research organizations, nonprofit organizations, or universities and colleges are also exempt from the annual cap.

H-1B Specialty Occupation Workers

There’s a long list of specialty occupation categories for H-1B work visas. They include professions from A to Z that typically require a four-year Bachelor’s Degree. However, registered nurses (RNs) who are in big demand by hospitals around the country, lack a temporary employment visa category because of the of H-1B eligibility requirement of a Bachelor’s Degree. Since many state licensing boards, hospitals, and other employers don’t require a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing, standard RN positions don’t comply with the definition of a “specialty occupation.” H-1B visas for nurses are often limited to advanced practice nurses such as:

  • Nurse Practitioners (NP)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA)
  • Certified Nurse Midwives (CNM)
  • Nurse Administrators
  • Nurse Managers

Under the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA), registered nurses who are citizens of Mexico and Canada are eligible for the TN work visa. TN visa applications for RNs are simple and require a short wait time for employment in the U.S., but the applicant eligibility pool is strictly limited to Canadian and Mexican nurses. Illinois is home to 1.74 million immigrants, so an immigration lawyer in Chicago has a vast knowledge in all areas of immigration law and variations on H-1B visas.

Recent USCIS policies may potentially expand nursing positions that are eligible for H-1B visas. New laws may open the door for many foreign nurses who already have a Bachelor’s Degree in nursing. Since entry-level nursing jobs in the U.S. don’t usually require a four-year degree, very few foreign nurses have been able to qualify for H-1B visas in the past. However, recent changes may give foreign RNs the opportunity to enter the U.S. under a temporary employment visa and apply for a green card while working.

Although specialty occupations like agriculture, education, engineering, technology, and science are in high demand, the U.S. government has projected a faster than average growth rate in the demand for nurses until 2022. Illinois immigration trends indicate an increased need for preventative care and attention to chronic health conditions as a result of the large baby boomer population now entering their senior years.