Q: If I obtain a nonimmigrant temporary work visa, can my family come live with me in the United States?
Yes, with the H-1, H-2 and H-3 Visas, your spouse and any dependent under the age of 21 is eligible for the H-4 Visa which allows them to lawfully enter and stay in the United States for the duration of your Visa. With this Visa program, your family may not work in the United States, however, your dependents may enroll in school. Spouses and children of O-1 Visa holders are eligible for the O-3 Visa which permits residence and study in the United States but also prohibits employment. Dependents of L-1 Visa holders are eligible for the L-2 Visa. Individuals residing in the United States under L-2 status are eligible to work in the United States provided they obtain an Employment Authorization Document.
Q: May I apply for a temporary nonimmigrant visa as an individual foreign national or must an American company do so on my behalf?
A foreign national seeking employment in the United States may not file for the Visa as an individual. When applying for any of the temporary nonimmigrant work Visas, the employer or training program must “sponsor” the individual, filing the petition and application on his/her behalf. Any U.S. employer may sponsor a foreign national provided it has an IRS Tax Identification Number. However, it is important for employers to note that sponsoring a foreign worker is a serious proposition which may result in civil or criminal penalties if done incorrectly. To avoid errors in the sponsorship of foreign nationals, all employers should seek legal advice prior to submitting their petition for any temporary nonimmigrant visa.
Q: Can a foreign national living and working under a temporary nonimmigrant visa apply for citizenship in the United States?
Foreign nationals remaining in the United States under the H-1B Visa, O-1 Visa and L-1 Visa may apply for a Permanent Resident Card, also known as a Green Card. Although these visas are considered nonimmigrant visas, they are recognized as having dual intent meaning that the foreign national may have short-term intent to leave the United States but the long-term intent to gain citizenship in the United States. Holders of the H1-C, H-2 and H-3 Visas are not eligible for citizenship.
Q: If I sponsor a foreign national for an H-1B Visa must I employ the worker for the entire duration of the Visa?
No, but if you dismiss the worker for any reason, you must pay for all expenses associated with the employees’ return to his or her home country. In some cases, you may even be responsible for the foreign national’s dependents and their moving costs.
Q: How long may a foreign national stay and work in the United States with an H-1B Visa?
The duration of stay with the H-1B Visa is three years, however, in many cases it may be extended for an additional three years. After the maximum period of six years has passed, the foreign national must leave and remain out of the United States for a full year before a petition for a second H-1B Visa may be approved.