There are several US visa options available to foreign nationals who want to live and work in America. These different US visa types can generally be categorized as either non-immigrant temporary work visas or permanent resident US immigration visas. A temporary work visa to America permits a foreign national to live and work in the USA for a limited time period, while a permanent resident visa (along with a Green Card) authorizes an immigrant to live and work in America for an unlimited length of time. Each US visa type has unique eligibility requirements and procedures that must be completed successfully before a foreign national will be authorized to live and work in the USA.


A non-immigrant temporary US work visa authorizes a foreign national to live and work in America for a specified amount of time (for example, 1-5 years, depending on the US visa type and other variables). In many cases, a temporary US work visa may have an option to be renewed for an additional length of time. There may also be an option which permits a foreign worker’s spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old to apply for a US visa so they can live in America.

Approximately 700,000 foreign workers are issued a temporary work visa to America each year through the following US visa types:

  • H1-B (Specialty Occupations)
  • H2-A (Temporary Agricultural Workers)
  • H2-B (Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers)
  • L-1A Visa (Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager)
  • L-1B Visa (Intracompany Transferee with Specialized Knowledge)
  • O-1A Visa (Persons with Extraordinary Ability in Science, Education, Business, or Athletics)
  • O-1B Visa (Persons with Extraordinary Ability in the Arts or Extraordinary Achievement in the Television or Motion Picture Industry)
  • P-1A Visa (Internationally Recognized Athlete)
  • P-1B Visa (Member of an Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group)
  • R-Visa (Person in a Religious Occupation)


There are several permanent resident US immigration visa programs which authorize qualified foreign nationals and their eligible family members (i.e., spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age) to live and work in America for an unlimited period of time as Green Card holders. Immigrants who are issued a Green Card receive many benefits, including: the right to live in America permanently; permission to work in the USA long-term; the option to start a business in the US; access to educational programs; the ability to open a bank account in the United States; the option to buy and own a home or other property in the USA; the opportunity to apply for a driver’s license; the right to obtain a Social Security Number and to receive Social Security and Medicare benefits (once the criteria are met); permission to travel to and from the United States (according to certain regulations); being able to sponsor eligible family members for a US visa; and the opportunity to apply for US citizenship after living in the United States with a Green Card five years and meeting other requirements.

Around 200,000 foreign nationals each year are approved to live and work in America as Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States through Employment-Based (EB) US immigration programs or through the annual Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program.

Employment-Based US Immigration Visas – Approximately 140,000 foreign nationals per year receive an Employment-Based (EB) US immigration visa and Green Card through these five US visa types:

  • EB-1 Visa – issued to workers with extraordinary ability in the arts, athletics, business, education or the sciences; multinational managers; or outstanding researchers and professors;
  • EB-2 Visa – granted to qualifying professionals who possess advanced university degrees (beyond a Bachelor’s Degree) or foreign nationals with exceptional abilities in business, the arts or sciences;
  • EB-3 Visa – for eligible professionals whose occupations require at least a Bachelor’s Degree; skilled foreign workers whose jobs require at least two years of training or work experience; or unskilled foreign workers in certain qualifying occupations that require less than two years of training or work experience to perform;
  • EB-4 Visa – given to international broadcasters, ministers of religion, religious workers, or other specific types of “special” immigrants;
  • EB-5 Visa – issued to foreign investors who make a substantial investment in a new business enterprise in a “targeted employment area” of the United States, which will create a minimum of 10 full-time jobs for US workers during a two-year time period.

Diversity Visas – Up to 50,000 Diversity Visas and Green Cards are granted every year for US immigration through the Diversity Visa (DV) Lottery Program. In order to participate in the DV-Lottery, applicants must be born in an eligible country, meet the education or work experience criteria, and correctly submit their applications and photos according to the strict criteria during the yearly registration period. Participants who are randomly selected in the DV-Lottery have the opportunity to apply for a Diversity Visa. Those who pass the Consular Interview procedure successfully and are issued a Diversity Visa will be able to receive a Green Card to live and work in the USA.

Please note that this is a brief overview regarding some of the major temporary and permanent resident US visa programs and that the criteria for these programs is subject to change at any time by the US government.

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