The United States (U.S.) maintains an employment-based immigration system that allows noncitizens to come to the U.S. to work. Generally, citizens of other countries that wish to enter the U.S. to work must first obtain a U.S. visa. This article focuses on visas for the purposes of employment available to immigrants and nonimmigrants. There are other visas available for other travel purposes. The U.S. Department of State website has information on other types of visas.
Topics on this page:
- What is an employment-based visa?
- Types of Employment Based Visas
- Visa Eligibility
- Farm Workers in Maryland
An employment-based visa is a legal document issued by the U.S. government allowing a noncitizen to enter and stay in the country after qualifying for a job position.
Employment-based visas are divided into two categories: “Immigrant” (permanent) visas and “Non-Immigrant” (temporary) visas. Permanent visas provide an opportunity to immigrate and become a resident of the U.S. Temporary visas allow noncitizens to work in a specific job for a limited time.
NOTE: Issuance of a visa does not guarantee entry to the United States. A visa simply indicates that a U.S. consular officer at an American embassy or consulate has reviewed the application and that officer has determined that the individual is eligible to enter the country for a specific purpose.
Permanent Worker Visas
If you have the right combination of skills, education, and/or work experience, you may be able to live and work permanently in the U.S. by seeking an employment-based immigrant visa. An immigrant employment visa is known as a permanent worker visa. Permanent worker visas are specifically for those workers who have found jobs in the U.S.
Employers looking to hire noncitizens under a permanent worker visa are responsible for sponsoring the employee to process their documents and stay in the U.S. Permanent residents are subjected to fewer restrictions than workers with temporary visas. People with a permanent work visa can also apply for U.S. citizenship.
There are five categories of permanent worker visas. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website provides detailed information about each category.
NOTE: If a person is already in the U.S. on a temporary visa, they can apply for “adjustment of status” to permanent residence after USCIS approves their employer’s petition.
Temporary Worker Visas
A common way to work temporarily in the U.S. as a nonimmigrant is for a prospective employer to file a petition with USCIS on your behalf. Most temporary worker visas require employer sponsorship. Individuals with a temporary work visa are restricted to the specific activity for which they were issued the visa and their stay must be for a specific period of time. Temporary workers do not intend to give up their country residence permanently and stay in the U.S. as a permanent resident.
Temporary worker visa categories are much more numerous than permanent worker visas. The USCIS website provides detailed information about each category.
To be eligible for a visa, you must fit within an open visa category AND meet the qualifications for admission to the U.S. You can be found inadmissible for several different reasons, including immigration control reasons, political and national security reasons, criminal reasons, economic reasons, public health reasons, and moral reasons. The USCIS Policy Manual provides more information on inadmissibility.
Immigrant and nonimmigrant employment visa applications are typically filed by your U.S. employer. If you are citizen of a foreign country and wish to work in the United States, you must apply for a visa from the U.S. Department of State. In many cases, before you apply for the visa from the U.S. Department of State, you (or your prospective employer) must first petition the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- The USCIS website provides detailed information about the petition process.
- The U.S. State Department's Employment-Based Immigrant Visa page provides detailed information about the overall process for applying for an employment-based visa.
The Maryland Farm Labor Contractor's Law regulates the activities of farm labor contractors who recruit, solicit, supply, or employ migrant or seasonal agricultural workers in Maryland. The law is designed to protect the rights of agricultural workers and ensure that farm labor contractors are properly licensed and regulated.
Under the law, a farm labor contractor must obtain a license from the Maryland Department of Labor before engaging in any activities related to recruiting, soliciting, supplying, or employing migrant or seasonal agricultural workers in Maryland. The license application process includes a background check and proof of financial responsibility. Growers must verify that a farm labor contractor is licensed before using the contractor's services.
- Completion of application form
- $25 application fee.
- Two recent passport-size color photographs of the applicant.
- U.S. Department of Labor registration as a farm labor contractor, with authorization to drive and transport migrant agricultural workers (if applicable).
- Proof of workers' compensation insurance.
- Proof of vehicle insurance issued by a Maryland-authorized company for each vehicle to be used to transport migrant agricultural workers in Maryland.
Licensing Fee: $25 per year. Licensing year begins March 1.
In addition to licensing requirements, the law sets forth several other requirements that farm labor contractors must follow. For example, contractors must maintain records of all workers employed, provide workers with written contracts that specify the terms and conditions of their employment, and comply with all applicable wage and hour laws. The law also imposes duties on a farm labor contractor regarding the employment, housing and transportation of migrant agricultural workers. The law also establishes penalties for violations, including fines and imprisonment, and provides for administrative proceedings to revoke or suspend a contractor's license for noncompliance.