Dreaming of working in the United States?
The USA offers a multitude of opportunities for international workers, but before you pack your bags and head to the land of opportunity, there’s a critical step you need to take – obtaining a work visa.
But how long does it take to get a work visa for the USA?
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the process and timelines to help you navigate this crucial step toward your American dream.
1. Types of Work Visas
Before we delve into the timelines and how to secure your employment-based visa in the US, it’s important to understand that there are several types of work visas in the United States, each with its specific requirements and processing times.
The most common work visas are:
- H-1B Visa: For skilled workers in specialty occupations.
- L-1 Visa: For intracompany transferees.
- O-1 Visa: For individuals with extraordinary abilities or achievements.
- E-2 Visa: For investors and entrepreneurs.
- TN Visa: For Canadian and Mexican professionals under the USMCA agreement.
The processing times can vary depending on the type of visa you’re applying for, as well as your circumstances.
Let’s take a look at which factors affect processing times.
2. Factors Affecting Processing Times for Work Visas
As you can imagine, several factors can influence how long it takes to obtain a work visa for the USA and we’re here to lay them all out for you:
1. Type of Visa
As mentioned earlier, different visas have different processing times.
Generally, temporary work visas like the H-1B and L-1 may have longer processing times compared to other visa categories. The reason for that?
Well, for starters, these are among the most popular and high-in-demand work visas in the United States.
For example, when talking about H-1B work visas, each year the U.S. government sets a cap on the number of H-1B visas that can be issued, and this cap is usually oversubscribed. Due to the intense competition for these visas, delays are to be expected.
Other than that, the requirements regarding the documentation that needs to be submitted, as well as the security checks that need to be conducted, further complicate the situation.
2. Country of Origin
Your home country can impact the processing time.
Some countries have shorter processing times due to reciprocal agreements, while others may have longer wait times due to security or administrative reasons.
For example, Canadian citizens often experience shorter processing times for U.S. visas due to the strong economic and political relationship between the two countries.
On the other hand, citizens of countries with high demand for U.S. visas, like India and China, may face longer processing times.
3. Employer’s Preparation
The efficiency of your prospective employer in preparing and filing the necessary documents can significantly affect processing times.
Employers are typically responsible for initiating the visa application process by submitting a petition or application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If your employer delays in gathering and submitting the necessary paperwork, it can lead to processing delays.
Moreover, accuracy is crucial in the visa application process.
If your employer provides incomplete or inaccurate information in the petition or application, USCIS may request additional documents or information, causing delays while corrections are made.
To avoid these delays, it’s best to seek legal counsel from employment immigration attorneys when navigating the work visa application process.
4. USCIS Workload
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing times can be influenced by their current workload and resources.
For example, changes in immigration policies, economic conditions, or world events may lead to an increase in the volume of incoming work visa applications.
Furthermore, many of these applications may require extensive reviews, background checks, or verification of supporting documentation, which can consume more time and resources from the USCIS.
Lastly, when USCIS is understaffed or faces personnel shortages due to factors like budget constraints or hiring difficulties, this too can lead to longer processing times.
5. Premium Processing
Some visas, like the H-1B, offer premium processing for an additional fee.
If you haven’t heard about it, Premium Processing is an optional service offered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that allows applicants and petitioners to expedite the processing of certain visa petitions and applications.
This service is available for various immigration-related requests, including H-1B visas, and is designed to significantly reduce the waiting time for a decision on the application. The greatest thing about it?
USCIS guarantees that it will either approve, deny, or issue a request for evidence (RFE) within the 15-day timeframe.
If USCIS doesn’t meet this commitment, it will refund the Premium Processing fee but continue to expedite the case as soon as possible.
Now, let’s dive into specific visa categories and their approximate processing times.
3. Processing Times of Work Visas
1. H-1B Visa
The H-1B visa is one of the most sought-after work visas for skilled professionals.
The typical processing time for an H-1B visa is as follows:
- Regular Processing: It can take anywhere from 2 to 8 months for USCIS to process your H-1B petition.
- Premium Processing: If you choose to pay for premium processing, you can expect a response within 15 calendar days.
2. L-1 Visa
The L-1 visa, designed for intracompany transferees, has the following processing times:
- Regular Processing: It usually takes around 2 to 4 months to process an L-1 visa application.
- Premium Processing: Like the H-1B visa, L-1 visas also offer premium processing, which shortens the initial wait time to 15 calendar days.
3. O-1 Visa
For individuals with extraordinary abilities or achievements, the processing times for an O-1 visa are as follows:
- Regular Processing: O-1 visa processing typically takes around 4 to 6 months.
- Premium Processing: If you opt for premium processing, you guessed it – you can receive a decision within 15 calendar days!
4. E-2 Visa
Entrepreneurs and investors seeking an E-2 visa should expect the following processing times:
- Regular Processing: On average, E-2 visa processing takes about 5 months.
- Premium Processing: 15 calendar days is the timeframe for adjudication on E-2 application with premium processing.
5. TN Visa
For Canadian and Mexican professionals under the USMCA agreement, the TN visa processing times are generally shorter:
- Regular Processing: TN visa applications are typically processed within 2 to 4 months.
- Premium Processing: 15 business days, just as mentioned above.
The time it takes to obtain a work visa for the USA varies depending on several factors, including the type of visa, your country of origin, and whether you opt for premium processing.
For this reason, it’s essential to plan ahead, gather all required documents, and work closely with your prospective employer to ensure a smooth and timely application process.
And remember: Processing times are approximate and can change due to various factors, including policy changes and USCIS workload.
It’s advisable to consult with an immigration attorney or check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date information on processing times.