Work Permits And Visas In The United States: A Guide For Employers

Want to hire or relocate employees in the United States, but confused by the complex legal landscape that governs work permits and visas? Here's your definitive guide to the work visa sponsorship process and everything required of employers.

Table of Contents

Hiring in the United States can be complex to navigate as an employer, whether you’re hoping to employ someone in the country or want to relocate them. Either way, you need to do your due diligence as an employer and ensure your employees’ paperwork is in order so they can legally work for you.

The U.S. has many types of work permits and visas, each with specific requirements that can impact your responsibilities as an employer. This process can be especially daunting if you have limited knowledge of the U.S. legal landscape.

To help you navigate these complexities, here is a detailed guide to work visa and permit requirements, outlining your responsibilities as an employer in the U.S. 

Which Workers Require Work Authorization Checks?

Making sure your employees are authorized to work in the U.S. is your responsibility as an employer. Non-compliance with work authorization requirements can lead to severe penalties, including fines and legal action.

Employers should verify the employment status of all employees, whether they’re U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, to comply with the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).

Work authorization checks are required for various types of workers, including:

  • Permanent employees
  • Temporary or contract workers
  • Interns and trainees
  • Seasonal workers

What’s The Difference Between Work Permits, Work Visas and Green Cards?

There’s a difference between work permits, work visas and green cards in the U.S:

Work Visa

A work visa permits foreign nationals to enter the U.S. temporarily for employment purposes. It is linked to a specific job or industry and is generally required before entering the U.S. This visa is employer-specific and often tied to specialized occupations.

Work Permit (Employment Authorization Document - EAD)

An EAD allows foreign nationals already residing in the U.S. to work legally for any employer. This document is frequently issued to individuals with certain visa categories or statuses, such as asylum seekers, students, or spouses of visa holders. Unlike a work visa, it offers greater flexibility in employment.

Green Card

A green card provides permanent residency and serves as proof of employment authorization. Holders of a green card have the right to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely without needing additional documentation. This status is distinct from the temporary nature of work visas and the more limited scope of work permits.

If you’re an employer sponsoring someone to enter the U.S. for work purposes, you will be dealing with work visas. There are various types of work visas, each with different stipulations regarding the duration of stay in the U.S.: 

Work Visa Types in the U.S.

What Is a Non-Immigrant Visa?

Non-immigrant visas are intended for temporary stays in the U.S. for specific purposes such as employment, education, or tourism. 

When it comes to employment, some of the most common types of visa include:

H-1B Visa: For specialty occupations requiring specialized knowledge and a bachelor's degree or higher. A typical H-1B visa allows an individual to work in the U.S. for three years, extendable to a maximum of six.

L-1 Visa: For intra-company transferees in managerial or executive positions or positions requiring specialized knowledge.

O-1 Visa: For individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in their field.

E-2 Visa: For investors and their employees in enterprises in which they have invested a substantial amount of capital.

TN Visa: For professionals from Canada and Mexico under the USMCA (formerly NAFTA).

B-1 Visa: For business visitors attending meetings, negotiating contracts, or consulting with business associates.

What Is an Immigrant Visa?

Immigrant visas are intended for individuals who want to live and work permanently in the U.S. These work visas are issued before the holder receives their green card, which means they become permanent residents of the United States. 

Examples include:

EB-1 Visa: For priority workers, including individuals with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers.

EB-2 Visa: For professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business.

EB-3 Visa: For skilled workers, professionals, and other workers.

EB-4 Visa: For special immigrants, including religious workers and certain international organization employees.

EB-5 Visa: For immigrant investors who invest a substantial amount of capital in a new commercial enterprise that creates or preserves at least ten full-time jobs for U.S. workers.

The Requirements for a Work Visa in the U.S.

To obtain a work visa in the U.S., employees must meet specific eligibility requirements, including:

  • Proof of a job offer from a U.S. employer
  • Valid passport and travel documents
  • Evidence of qualifications and experience
  • Labor condition application (LCA) approval for certain visas
  • Payment of applicable fees

The process for obtaining a work visa involves several steps:

  1. The employer files a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  2. Once the petition is approved, the employee applies for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy.
  3. The employee attends an interview and provides biometric data.
  4. Upon approval, the employee receives their visa and can travel to the U.S. to begin work.

The Process for Work Visa Sponsorship in the U.S.

As an employer, you’ll need to support your employees with the visa sponsorship process. Here’s what it involves:

  1. Filing the necessary petitions and forms with USCIS. For nonimmigrant employment visa sponsorships, employers would submit Form I-129. For immigrant visas, you would submit Form I-140.
  2. Providing documentation and evidence to support the visa application, which will include a sponsorship letter. 
  3. Covering application fees and related expenses.
  4. Offering legal assistance and guidance throughout the process.
  5. Ensuring compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements.

How Playroll Can Simplify International Hiring and Compliance

As the process for work visa sponsorship shows, relocating foreign workers to the U.S. can get complex and costly, and requires in-depth knowledge of compliance that can put you at risk if you take any missteps. That’s why many businesses opt to use an Employer Of Record like Playroll to simplify global employment and working with distributed talent. 

Playroll assists with hiring, onboarding, and managing employees in over 180 countries, including the U.S., ensuring compliance without the substantial costs of setting up legal entities in new markets.

Ready to simplify your international employment process? Chat with our team of experts to learn more about how Playroll can help scale your global team.

FAQs

What are the employment laws in the United States?

Check out Playroll's detailed U.S. country guide for a breakdown on employment laws, payroll and employment taxes in the United States.

What is a distributed workforce?

A distributed workforce is a model where employees are geographically dispersed, working collaboratively through digital channels.

Hiring in the United States can be complex to navigate as an employer, whether you’re hoping to employ someone in the country or want to relocate them. Either way, you need to do your due diligence as an employer and ensure your employees’ paperwork is in order so they can legally work for you.

The U.S. has many types of work permits and visas, each with specific requirements that can impact your responsibilities as an employer. This process can be especially daunting if you have limited knowledge of the U.S. legal landscape.

To help you navigate these complexities, here is a detailed guide to work visa and permit requirements, outlining your responsibilities as an employer in the U.S. 

Which Workers Require Work Authorization Checks?

Making sure your employees are authorized to work in the U.S. is your responsibility as an employer. Non-compliance with work authorization requirements can lead to severe penalties, including fines and legal action.

Employers should verify the employment status of all employees, whether they’re U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, to comply with the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).

Work authorization checks are required for various types of workers, including:

  • Permanent employees
  • Temporary or contract workers
  • Interns and trainees
  • Seasonal workers

What’s The Difference Between Work Permits, Work Visas and Green Cards?

There’s a difference between work permits, work visas and green cards in the U.S:

Work Visa

A work visa permits foreign nationals to enter the U.S. temporarily for employment purposes. It is linked to a specific job or industry and is generally required before entering the U.S. This visa is employer-specific and often tied to specialized occupations.

Work Permit (Employment Authorization Document - EAD)

An EAD allows foreign nationals already residing in the U.S. to work legally for any employer. This document is frequently issued to individuals with certain visa categories or statuses, such as asylum seekers, students, or spouses of visa holders. Unlike a work visa, it offers greater flexibility in employment.

Green Card

A green card provides permanent residency and serves as proof of employment authorization. Holders of a green card have the right to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely without needing additional documentation. This status is distinct from the temporary nature of work visas and the more limited scope of work permits.

If you’re an employer sponsoring someone to enter the U.S. for work purposes, you will be dealing with work visas. There are various types of work visas, each with different stipulations regarding the duration of stay in the U.S.: 

Work Visa Types in the U.S.

What Is a Non-Immigrant Visa?

Non-immigrant visas are intended for temporary stays in the U.S. for specific purposes such as employment, education, or tourism. 

When it comes to employment, some of the most common types of visa include:

H-1B Visa: For specialty occupations requiring specialized knowledge and a bachelor's degree or higher. A typical H-1B visa allows an individual to work in the U.S. for three years, extendable to a maximum of six.

L-1 Visa: For intra-company transferees in managerial or executive positions or positions requiring specialized knowledge.

O-1 Visa: For individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in their field.

E-2 Visa: For investors and their employees in enterprises in which they have invested a substantial amount of capital.

TN Visa: For professionals from Canada and Mexico under the USMCA (formerly NAFTA).

B-1 Visa: For business visitors attending meetings, negotiating contracts, or consulting with business associates.

What Is an Immigrant Visa?

Immigrant visas are intended for individuals who want to live and work permanently in the U.S. These work visas are issued before the holder receives their green card, which means they become permanent residents of the United States. 

Examples include:

EB-1 Visa: For priority workers, including individuals with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational executives and managers.

EB-2 Visa: For professionals with advanced degrees or exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business.

EB-3 Visa: For skilled workers, professionals, and other workers.

EB-4 Visa: For special immigrants, including religious workers and certain international organization employees.

EB-5 Visa: For immigrant investors who invest a substantial amount of capital in a new commercial enterprise that creates or preserves at least ten full-time jobs for U.S. workers.

The Requirements for a Work Visa in the U.S.

To obtain a work visa in the U.S., employees must meet specific eligibility requirements, including:

  • Proof of a job offer from a U.S. employer
  • Valid passport and travel documents
  • Evidence of qualifications and experience
  • Labor condition application (LCA) approval for certain visas
  • Payment of applicable fees

The process for obtaining a work visa involves several steps:

  1. The employer files a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  2. Once the petition is approved, the employee applies for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy.
  3. The employee attends an interview and provides biometric data.
  4. Upon approval, the employee receives their visa and can travel to the U.S. to begin work.

The Process for Work Visa Sponsorship in the U.S.

As an employer, you’ll need to support your employees with the visa sponsorship process. Here’s what it involves:

  1. Filing the necessary petitions and forms with USCIS. For nonimmigrant employment visa sponsorships, employers would submit Form I-129. For immigrant visas, you would submit Form I-140.
  2. Providing documentation and evidence to support the visa application, which will include a sponsorship letter. 
  3. Covering application fees and related expenses.
  4. Offering legal assistance and guidance throughout the process.
  5. Ensuring compliance with all legal and regulatory requirements.

How Playroll Can Simplify International Hiring and Compliance

As the process for work visa sponsorship shows, relocating foreign workers to the U.S. can get complex and costly, and requires in-depth knowledge of compliance that can put you at risk if you take any missteps. That’s why many businesses opt to use an Employer Of Record like Playroll to simplify global employment and working with distributed talent. 

Playroll assists with hiring, onboarding, and managing employees in over 180 countries, including the U.S., ensuring compliance without the substantial costs of setting up legal entities in new markets.

Ready to simplify your international employment process? Chat with our team of experts to learn more about how Playroll can help scale your global team.

FAQs

What are the employment laws in the United States?

Check out Playroll's detailed U.S. country guide for a breakdown on employment laws, payroll and employment taxes in the United States.

What is a distributed workforce?

A distributed workforce is a model where employees are geographically dispersed, working collaboratively through digital channels.

Scale the way you work, with Playroll.

Let's grow your distributed workforce, today.

Expand Globally, Today.