5 Things You Need to Know about Temporary Work Visas

Temporary work visas are some of the most popular visas issued by the United States. However, there are at least 5 things you need to know when applying for a temporary work visa.

1. There are limits to the number of visas issued

Temporary work visas are issued for a variety of occupations for foreign nationals; however, there are different types of forms and applications required based on the nature of your work and specific rules that apply to your home country. There are also set limits to how many visas can be granted for each category.

Some of the most common temporary work visas and their requirements include:


Issued to highly educated foreign professionals with at least a Bachelor’s degree. As many as 65,000 of this visa type may be issued each year, with an additional 20,000 issued for qualifying applicants who earned a Master’s or Doctorate degree in the U.S. H-1B visas can be issued for up to three years and may be renewed to last up to six years.


Issued to temporary agricultural workers. There is no set limit for this type of visa, however, there are usually 40-50,000 workers who take advantage of this program. An H-2A visa can last for up to a year and be renewed for up to three years.


Issued to “seasonal” non-agricultural temporary workers. Up to 66,000 H-2B visas are issued each year. These visas usually last for up to a year and can be renewed for up to three years.

L-1A & L-1B

L-1A and L-1B visas are for individuals who are already working in a managerial or executive capacity in an international company in their home country and whose skills are needed in a sister company within the U.S. Initial visas can last from one to three years, and be extended for up to seven years.

2. The visa process begins with the employer

Foreign nationals who wish to work in the U.S. must have an employer sponsorship and have that sponsorship be verified within 6 months of when they are to start work. If the temporary work visa is approved, they can enter the U.S. ten days before their official start date.

In most cases, a U.S. employer must initiate the process for a temporary work visa by filing a petition for a non-immigrant worker on the employee’s behalf. Some exceptions are made for treaty traders, investors, and some specialty occupation professionals from Australia.

In most cases, the employer must also obtain certification from the Department of Labor indicating the absence of U.S. citizens who are willing, qualified, and available to work in the position.

3. An approved petition does not guarantee a visa approval

An approved petition for a temporary work visa does not guarantee that you will receive a visa. There is still more to the process, including completing an online application and attending an interview at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your home country.

There are also several documents you will need during your interview, which are usually for the purpose of showing that the you have strong ties to your home country and intend to return once your work assignment is complete.

Examples of required documents include but not limited to:
>a passport that will be valid for six months beyond the specified period of employment
>the confirmation page from your application
>a receipt for the application fee and any other fees required by the home country
>a receipt number for your approved petition which appears on Form I-29 or Form I-797 from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

There may be times where the Consulate or Embassy will request additional documentation.

Your spouse and unmarried minor children may also apply under the same visa category as you and you will need to show your ability to support them while in the U.S.

As a reminder, an application may be considered ineligible for a visa for various reasons. Most often denials are issued on the grounds of health concerns, criminal background concerns, or security concerns. If you do not have sufficient documentation or have previously violated U.S. immigration laws, you may also be denied a visa.

4. Visa renewals go through the same process as the initial applications

Generally, renewing your temporary work visa does not allow for any shortcuts and you must go through the same process as when you first applied. There are only a few exceptions with regards to an interview waiver.

5. Temporary worker visa holders should be paid comparable wages to U.S. citizens

Hiring a worker from outside the U.S. is intended to help serve a true economic need, not to take advantage of an individual. In every visa category, there are provisions so that the wages/salary of the foreign worker is comparable to that of other workers in similar positions OR be above the median wage for the position in the city where it is located.

Note: A previous version of this post was published on our blog on 8/13/15. This post has been updated as of 8/20/19.

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Disclaimer: Nothing in relation to the enclosed information should be construed and or considered as legal advice for any individual, entity, case, or situation. The following information is prepared for advertisement use only. The information is intended ONLY to be general and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. For legal advice on your specific situation, we encourage you to consult an attorney experienced in the area of Immigration Law.