The confusing world of US work visas

by Matt Hamer
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Ashin Soti, Bimbo Bakeries USA.
 

If you’re not a US citizen, the path to being able to work in the country can be a long and complicated one. Ashin Soti from Bimbo Bakeries USA, Horsham Township, PA, an Indian citizen, shared his experience of working in the US as a foreigner and explained the differences between the top three types of work visas in a presentation at the American Society of Baking’s BakingTech conference in Chicago.

In the US, there are 18 different classifications of work visa. The most common is the H-1B, defined as a person in a specialty occupation. This visa requires a US bachelor’s degree or equivalent to obtain. The applicant does not need to have a minimum amount of work experience, and the US employer is not required to be related to any company outside the US. However, the employer is required to submit a Labor Condition Application (LCA) justifying the hiring of a non-US citizen over a citizen.

The L classification is defined as an intra-company transferee. This visa requires the applicant to work at a branch, parent, affiliate or subsidiary of a US company operating outside of the US for one continuous year before moving to the US to work. Unlike the H1-B, the L visa has no minimum education requirement, and the employer does not have to submit an LCA.

TN visas are available only to citizens of Canada or Mexico. Canadian citizens must apply in person at the US border or airport, while Mexican citizens must first obtain a TV visa stamp and then apply. There is no action required for the recipient of the visa to transfer to a new job location with the same employer.

Mr. Soti stressed that employers looking to hire non-US citizens and job applicants need to do their homework before entering the visa application process to avoid headaches down the road. For example, under his H1-B visa his wife is not allowed to work in the US, whereas if he had gone for an L visa she would be. Employers need to advise their prospective employees on which visa to apply for and strategize accordingly. He also recommended using tax consultants to explain US taxes to applicants, as recipients of all three of these visas are required to pay US taxes like citizens.

Every country has different requirements before green card status can be applied for as as well, Mr. Soti said. Countries like China and India have substantially longer wait times than countries like Canada or Mexico, and employers/employees need to know that going into the process.

For more information on the different classifications of work visas and to get a fuller picture of the requirements and restrictions of each, visit www.travel.state.gov or www.uscis.gov.

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