The United States continues to be one of the most attractive countries for immigrants and


international students, and many look for work opportunities as they move. However, the only


way you are legally allowed to work in the USA when you are not a citizen or permanent


resident is to obtain a USA Work Visa. The work visa allows you to work for a predetermined


period of time, and different types of visas have certain restrictions and requirements. Whether


you’re an international student thinking about working the USA, or are a foreigner interested in


applying for a work visa, you will need to know what the rules and regulations are for your


specific situation.



If you want to legally work in the USA, you will need to be a U.S. citizen or permanent

resident, or hold a USA work visa. The United States Immigration and Nationality Act grants a

minimum of 140,000 employment-based immigration visas to individuals that meet certain

criteria, and these visas allow you to work on a part-time or full-time basis under certain

conditions. If you apply for and work at a job without a work visa or permit, you may be fined

heavily and deported immediately.


There are several different types of visas available to immigrants and non-citizens of the

United States. Each visa application is different, and you will need to provide extensive

documentation about your background, birth certificate and other supporting documents before

the visa can be granted. Anyone that wishes to work in the USA will need to go through this

process, and may consider hiring a lawyer to do so.  The types of visas that allow you to work in

the USA include:  Employment Based First Preference (E1), Employment Based Second


Preference (E2), Employment Based Third Preference (E3), Employment Based Fourth

Preference (E4), Employment Based Fifth Preference (E5), F1 Student Visa, J1 Student Visa,

M1 Student Visa, H1B Visa, L-1 Visa and the.TN1 Visa (for Canadian immigrants)


E1 through E5 visas are granted to individuals that have filed an Immigrant Petition for

Foreign worker document, and have either received a job offer for a position in the United States,

or are a working professional with exceptional abilities and an approved labor certification from

the Department of Labor. Other stipulations for these visas apply, and these work visas are not

typically granted to international students.   H1B, J1 Exchange, L-1 and TN1 visas are typically

granted to non-student foreigners who wish to work in the USA for a certain period of time.  If

you want to get a work visa as an international student, you will be eligible for an F1 Visa, J1

Student Visa, or an M1 Student Visa.  The F1 Visa is granted to international students who are

attending an academic program at an accredited college or university in the United States. You

will need to maintain full-time student status in order to qualify for this visa, and you are allowed

to stay in the U.S. for up to 60 days after graduation from your degree program. As an F1 visa

holder, you are allowed to work 20 hours or less per week at a job on campus, and must report

your working hours to your university on a regular basis. You are also eligible to complete

practical training in your field of study for 12 months after graduation, at which point you are

allowed to work on a full-time basis in your industry.  The J1 Student Visa is granted to students

who need to acquire practical training in a field that is unavailable in their home country. They

must find a sponsor who can provide them with the training, and they can enter the United States

through the Exchange Visitor Program. If you are granted this visa, you will need to work with

your employer to go through the sponsorship process.  The M-1 Visa does not permit you to

work in the USA, but does allow you to enter the country legally and pursue an education. M-1

visas are granted to individuals attending a technical or vocational program, and you will need to

provide proof that you can support yourself without having to work in the USA.  It is generally a

good idea to speak with your international student advisor at the college or university you are

attending to clarify all the rules and stipulations about working the USA with your particular visa

status.  If you are interested in applying for a work visa in the USA as a non-student immigrant,

you will need to find an employer to sponsor you for the length of your employment contract,

and must work only a set number of hours based on the type of visa granted to you. Your

eligibility will be based on the Employment Based visa requirements as outlined by the U.S.

Department of State Bureau of Consumer Affairs.  The H1B visa allows you to work in the USA

for up to six years as a non-immigrant. You are permitted to enter the United States with this

visa, but must show proof of a sponsoring company before you move.  The J1 exchange visitor

visa is granted to both students and non-students interested in participating in the Exchange

Visitor Program. This allows you to legally work or train in your field during the length of your

stay, but you must take a job in the private sector as an alien physician, au pair, camp counselor,

secondary school student, teacher, or flight trainee, or work in the academic and government

sectors as an international visitor, government visitor, short term scholar, professor or research

scholar, specialist, or attend a student college or university.  The L-1 Visa allows companies to

transfer certain employees from certain departments overseas to the United States. This type of

visa is granted only to managers and executives, or specialized knowledge staff members, and

the individual is only allowed to work in the United States for a certain time frame.  TN1 Visa is

granted to Canadian citizens who are given preferential treatment for entry into the United States

through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The TN1 Visa is granted for one

year but can be renewed indefinitely. It is usually granted immediately at the Canadian border,

and is one of the most efficient ways for a Canadian to enter the United States with the ability to

work (as long as they are working for a specific employer).