On an individual basis, the cost for obtaining a work permit within the United States varies from $320-$1,410. The price will vary depending on the particular circumstances of your case and your employer’s situation.Whether you have been living in the USA for one year or twenty years and you’re thinking about applying for a work permit, this article will help you navigate through the various steps involved in the application process.
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How Much Does It Cost To Apply For A Work Permit In Us
Work Permits and Employment-Based Visas
Whether you are a professional in a specialized field or a skilled worker, you will need an employment visa and, in some cases, an additional work permit that allows you to pursue a career in the US.
Keep in mind that once you have determined which type of visa is appropriate for your situation, you will usually not be able to apply for it unless your employer petitions for your stay. The petition document is called form I-129 and the filing fee is 460 USD.
Unfortunately for self-employed workers, the US does not have any specific visa options.
If you need a business visa for a short-term stay, look into the type B visitor visa that allows you to stay in the country for under six months. The Visa Waiver Program might also be an option if your country of origin is on the list of eligible nationalities.
US Work Visas
If you are moving to the US for work-related reasons, you will need to get yourself a work visa. Work visa acts as a work permit, allowing you to live and work in the US. Thus, you do not need to get any additional documents in order to start working in the country.
US Work Visa Types
In a country as complex and expansive at the US, there are many different visa types foreigners can apply to. Some cover a broad category of professions, while others are specific to your job type and your nationality.
Below is a look at the different types of work visas expats can apply for.
- E-1/2/3: Traders
- E-2: Investors
- E-3: Special occupation professionals from Australia
- H-1B: Special occupation professionals
- H-1C: Registered nurses
- H-2A/B: Agricultural workers
- H-2B: Non-agricultural workers (hotel, food service, etc.)
- H-3: Non-immigrant trainees
- I: Foreign media representatives
- L-1A/B: Intra-company transferees
- O: Individuals with extraordinary abilities or achievements
- P-1A: Internationally recognized athletes
- P-1B: Entertainment groups
- P-2: Performers performing under a reciprocal exchange program and
- P-3: Artists that are part of a culturally unique program
- Q: Visas for cultural exchange
- TN NAFTA: Visas for Canadian and Mexican professionals
The Most Popular US Visa Types
Visas for People in a Specialty Occupation (H-1B Visa)
H-1B type visa is the most popular work visa in the US. A variety of occupations can apply for this visa such as physicians, engineers, IT specialists, and more.
To be eligible for this type of US work visa, you should meet one of the following requirements:
- Have a US or foreign equivalent of a bachelor’s or higher degree.
- Have completed training and hold a significant amount of work experience that is equivalent to a bachelor’s or higher degree.
- Hold a form of certification that authorizes you to practice your specialty in the US and proof that you are planning on doing so.
The position that you are applying for must require a higher education degree, or an equivalent of it. Keep in mind that the specific diplomas and qualifications you hold need to meet US standards. In some cases, this means that you will need to get additional documentation proving your skills. You will find more information on that in the working section of this guide.
In order for you to get H-1B visa, your employer will need to file a Labor Condition Application form (form ETA-9035) that demonstrates your wage will not affect the wages of other employees. Additionally, they will also need to petition for you (form I-129).
The limit of H-1B visas granted per year is 65,000, with 20,000 of them given to applicants with masters degrees or higher. You are not subject to this cap if you apply for a job in a higher education institution or non-profit organization.
If you are granted an H-1B visa, you are allowed to stay in the country for three years. The period of stay may be extended to three more years after that (six years total).
Family members of individuals with H-1B visa can apply for an H4 visa.
H-1B1 visa is often qualified separately from H-1B visas, as it has a few notable differences:
- The visa is valid for 18 months with a possibility of extension.
- The cap allows for 1,400 Chilean and 5,400 Singaporean workers under H1B1 visa (this number is a part of the overall cap for individuals applying for H1B visa).
- The visa allows alternative credentials instead of the bachelor’s degree (specialized training and a sufficient amount of experience is still required).
- The applicant can present their professional licenses after applying for a visa rather than before.
- The visa does not allow for the change of status.
Visa for Intracompany Transferees (L visa)
If you are being transferred to a US-based workplace within your company, you will need to get an L visa. The type of L visa you need depends on your position within the company. Executives and managers qualify for L-1A type of visa, while L-1B is for workers with specialized knowledge.
To get the US L visa, you need to meet the following requirements:
- You need to have worked for the company for at least a year before your admission to the US.
- You need to be seeking an executive or management position (L-1A), or a position that requires specialized knowledge (L-1B).
Intracompany transfers can be made between affiliates, parent companies, branches, and subsidiaries.
Your employer will need to petition for you in order for you to get this visa (form I-129).
Employers that meet certain qualifications sometimes choose to file a so-called blanket petition that covers more than one transferring worker. In most cases, that means you will need to pay additional fees for your visa processing, but it can make it go faster. Workers that are being transferred to the US but are not staying in the offices of the company that is petitioning for them, also qualify for this visa.
L type visa allows workers to stay in the US for three years with possible extensions of two additional years (five years total for L-1B type and seven years total for L-1A type). Workers that are transferred to the US to establish new offices are allowed to stay in the country for one year with the same extension possibilities.
The family of an expat with an L type visa will need to apply for the L2 visa. Family members are usually allowed to stay in the US for the same period of time.
The US Visa Application Process
Once your employer has filed the necessary documents on their behalf and they get approved, it is your turn to take action. The steps you need to take might differ depending on the country you are in, so make sure to check if your local embassy follows the same standard procedures that are discussed in this section.
Step One: Complete the US Visa Application Form
The DS-160 form should be completed online. The following information is necessary when filling in the form:
- A valid passport
- A copy of your employment petition (form I-129)
- Your travel itinerary (if you have one)
- Your recent travel history
- Your resume
- Your photo
You may be asked to provide additional information as well, depending on the type of visa you apply for.
Once you have filled in your application, make sure to print the confirmation page as you will need to present it in your interview.
Step Two: Schedule and Prepare for the Interview
If you are between 14 and 79 years of age you will need to have an interview with a consular officer to get your visa. The wait times for the interview vary from embassy to embassy and can be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.
Once you have your appointment scheduled you will have to pay the appropriate fees. The fees for the US visa will depend on the country you are from as well as the type of visa you apply for.
Nonimmigrant Visa Type Visa Processing Fee (USD) Petition-based 190 Non-petition-based 160 Trader/Investor or Australian Professional Specialty 205 Spouse/Fiancé(e) of a US citizen 265
These fees are non-refundable. Applicants of the US L type work visa will be required to pay additional costs (500 USD) if they are applying for a visa under a blanket petition. Other US visa costs, like the issuance fee, will have to be paid after your visa gets approved.
Another stage in the interview preparation process is getting all your paperwork in order. You should have the following documents on you when going to the interview:
- Your passport
- The printed confirmation page of the visa application form (form DS-160)
- Receipt of payment for processing fees
- Receipt number for your approved petition (form I-129 or form I-129S for L visa applicants)
- Your photo (if you did not upload it when filling in the online application form)
Additional documentation may be required, depending on the visa you apply for. For some visa applications, you may be required to prove that you do not intend to stay in the US for an extended period of time.
This is also the perfect time to read about your rights in the US as a nonimmigrant.
Step Three: Attend the US Visa Interview
On the day of the interview, make sure to dress appropriately and be on time. When answering the questions be convincing and do not hesitate. You might be asked about:
- Why you want to go to the US
- Who is coming with you to the US
- How long you plan on staying in the US
- Where will you be staying in the US
- Any relatives in the US
At some point during your interview appointment, you will be asked to provide your fingerprints.
After your interview, the consular officer will inform you about the further processing of your visa.
Step Four: Finalize the Paperwork and Get Your Visa
Now you will enter the final visa application stage: waiting. Once again, wait times will depend on the embassy; however, the process should not take longer than 60 days.
Depending on the country you are from, at this step of the process, you might need to pay the visa issuance fee. In a lot of cases, the issuance is free; however, for some nationals, the nonimmigrant visa costs vary between 200 to 2,000 USD.
Some additional processing of your visa might be required as well. If your application is subject to it, that means that some facts you brought up during the interview might be checked in the appropriate databases (criminal record, security risks, prior overstays, etc.). If that is the case, you will be informed about it as it might delay your visa issuance.
You will receive your visa together with your passport by mail.
These rules and regulations are always in a constant state of change. That is why it is important to keep up with the latest news about visa processing in the US.
Who Needs a Work Permit in the US?
An Employment Authorization Document (EAD), or US work permit, is necessary for individuals that hold specific types of visas that limit their employment opportunities in the States. This is especially relevant for expat families as this document is necessary for spouses of employees with a US work visa that seek job opportunities.
You need a work permit in the US if you:
- Have a nonimmigrant visa that allows you to work but requires evidence of this approval (U visa, or spouses of L-1 and H-1B visas, for example).
- Have your permanent residence status application pending.
- Have your asylum application pending.
- Have an immigrant or a nonimmigrant visa that does not allow you to work without permission (F-1, K-1, K-3, M-1, E-21, E-22, E34, EW4, etc.).
Note that F-2 visa holders (family-based immigrant visas) are not eligible for the US work permit.
In order to get an EAD, you need to file a US work permit application form (form I-765). The eligibility requirements to get one vary depending on which visa you have. However, there is some general documentation you need in order to apply:
- Your passport, travel document, or departure-arrival record (form I-94)
- A copy of your last EAD or a government-issued ID
- Two passport photos
- G-28 form if you are represented by an attorney
Additional documents might include proof of your spouse’s visa status, marriage certificates, or an employment proposal letter.
The filing fee for the US work permit costs 410 USD. In addition to that, you might also need to pay an extra 85 USD for biometric services. Some applicants might be exempt from paying the fees in specific cases.
E type visa for investors (E-2) is the closest you can get to a self-employed visa in the US. However, it is only available to a handful of applicants that wish to invest a substantial amount of money into a profitable US-based company. The law allows you to establish it yourself; however, it must be a company that hires other employees as well.
Visa for Traders (E-2 visa)
To qualify for an E type of visa, the applicant must meet the following requirements:
- Be a national of one of the countries that the US maintains a treaty with.
- Have invested or be in a process of investing a significant amount of capital in a profitable US-based company.
- Be seeking to enter the US solely to invest in a US enterprise. This has to be shown by owning at least 50% of the company or having operational control in it.
Note that the business you are investing in cannot be classified as “marginal.” That means that it needs to generate sufficient funds for you and your family to live off of. If that is not currently possible, you need to be able to prove that your business will generate such income in the next five years.
The maximum stay for people holding this visa is two years. There is no limit for how much it can be extended, as long as it is for increments that are up to two years. Still, the person must have the intention of leaving the US when their status expires or is terminated.
The family of individuals with an E visa can seek for the equivalent type of visa (E-2) that will grant them the same period of stay in the US.
Process and Costs
When trying to obtain E type of visa, you will need to petition for yourself (form I-129). In general, the rest of the process, including the application form, follows the same aforementioned steps. The visa application fee on its own is 205 USD.
If you start your own business in the US, you cannot consider yourself an employee and sponsor your own stay in the US with an H-1B visa. That is because this specific type of visa requires the sponsor and sponsored to have an employer-employee type of relationship. The work of the sponsored individual needs to be controlled (hiring, firing, payments, bonuses, overall supervision) by someone other than themselves.
Residency Permits: Temporary and Permanent
Whether it is an employment contract or family ties, if you are looking to obtain a temporary or permanent residence status, you do need a reason to stay in the country. That is unless you qualify and win the green card lottery.
Temporary Residence Permits
The most common temporary residence visas are employment-based. Refer to the section above to find out about the typical requirements and fees for residence visas based on work.
These are other visa types that allow you to live in the country for a set period of time:
- Attendants, servants, personal employees of diplomatic and other government officials and immediate family
- Visitors for business or pleasure
- Dependents of treaty traders, treaty investors, and their employees
- Dependents of skilled professionals from Australia
- Attendants, servants, personal employees of foreign government officials and immediate family
- Dependents of temporary skilled or unskilled workers and trainees
- Spouse of U.S. Citizen and minor child accompanying/following to join
- Dependents of intracompany transferees
- Parents and children of certain people who have been granted special, immigrant status
- Attendants, servants, personal employees of NATO representatives, officials, employees, and immediate family members
- Dependents of aliens with extraordinary ability and their assistants
- Dependents of athletes and entertainers
- Dependents of religious workers
- Certain second preference beneficiaries
- Dependents of Canadians and Mexicans under the North American free trade agreement (NAFTA)
Family members and other dependents of work visa holders should apply for the same visa as the employed individual. In this case, no petition is necessary, and the main requirement is usually the proof of relations with the primary visa applicant. There also must be proof that the employed individual will be able to support the dependents once in the US.
How to Apply for a Temporary Residence Permit Extension
You can apply for an extension of these visas if you meet the following requirements:
- You were lawfully admitted into the United States as a nonimmigrant.
- You have not committed any act that makes you ineligible to receive an immigration benefit.
- There is no other factor that requires you to depart the United States prior to extending status.
To apply for an extension of your temporary visa, you must file the application form I-539 either online using the USCIS ELIS or by mail. The fees may vary between the various visas. These can go from 160 USD to 265 USD, but you can check all the visa fees for nonimmigrant visas here.
How to Become a Permanent US Resident
There are three ways you can become a permanent resident in the US:
- Through an employment-based application
- Through a family-based application
- Through the green card lottery
All of these approaches are comprised of a few stages, which means that the process can take a long time and you will need to be patient. In order for the procedure to go smoothly, make sure that the information you provide is accurate and supported by additional documentation.
Once you receive your permanent residence card, you are required to carry it with you at all times. Note that while residency is permanent, the card itself is valid for only ten years and will have to be renewed.
US Permanent Residence Benefits
Getting permanent residence in the US:
- Grants you the freedom to change jobs without the need of additional approvals.
- Allows you to freely move within the country.
- Makes it easier to re-enter the US after traveling abroad.
- Gives you a chance to sponsor the residency of your relatives.
How to Get Permanent Residency in the US Through Employment
Workers that apply for permanent residence in the US are classified into five different categories. Some of these categories require you to already have a job offer as your employer needs to petition for you (form I-140). In most cases, you will also need a labor certification (ETA 9089). In it, your employer will need to prove that
- no other US worker with appropriate qualifications and salary expectations was willing to fill your position;
- hiring you will not affect the wages of the rest of the employees.
US Employment-Based Permanent Residency Types
First Preference EB-1
- Individuals with extraordinary ability (outstanding entertainers, sportsmen, or businessmen)
- Outstanding professors and researchers
- Multinational managers or executives
The US permanent residence visa EB-1 eligibility requirements:
- Provide evidence of widely recognized achievements in the field (extraordinary ability).
- International recognition of outstanding achievements and three years of experience teaching or researching the appropriate academic field (professors and researchers).
- Three years of employment (in a management or executive position) before entering the US, with at least one year at the company the applicant is seeking to continue working for when in the US (managers and executives).
The necessary application documents:
- In case of extraordinary ability, you can petition for yourself by filing form I-140.
- If you are seeking permanent residence in the US as a professor, researcher, executive, or manager, your employer will need to petition for you by filing form I-140.
Second Preference EB-2
The US permanent residence visa EB-2 eligibility requirements:
- The job must require an advanced degree and you need to have it; or
- You must show exceptional ability in your field; or
- Be eligible for a National Interest Waiver.
People who show exceptional abilities in their field and whose employment would benefit the US can apply for a National Interest Waiver. That means that their Labor Certificate would be waived as their work is advantageous to the country.
You are eligible for the waiver if you meet at least three of the following criteria:
- Have a certificate of exceptional abilities from an educational institution.
- Own a license or a certificate that allows you to practice your occupation.
- Have ten years of experience in your occupation.
- Have received salaries or other payments for your exceptional abilities.
- Are a member of a professional association.
- Have received recognition for your achievements from your peers, business organizations, or the government.
- Other comparable evidence of eligibility.
The necessary application documents:
- Your employer will need to petition for you by filing form I-140.
- Unless you qualify for a National Interest Waiver, you will need to obtain a Foreign Labor Certification (ETA 9089).
Third Preference EB-3
- Professionals (accountants, engineers, teachers, etc.)
- Skilled workers (cooks, mechanics, drivers, etc.)
- Unskilled workers (waiters, janitors, factory workers, etc.)
The US permanent residence visa EB-3 eligibility requirements:
- The US baccalaureate or an equivalent foreign degree that allows you to do a job that other qualified US workers are unavailable for (professionals).
- Two years of job experience or training that allows you to do a job that other qualified US workers are unavailable for (skilled workers).
- The ability to perform unskilled work of permanent and unseasonal nature that requires less than two years of training for which other qualified US workers are unavailable (unskilled workers).
- A full-time job offer.
The necessary application documents:
- Obtain a Foreign Labor Certification (ETA 9089).
- Your employer needs to petition for you by filing form I-140.
Fourth Preference EB-4
- Armed Forces members
- Ministers of religion
- G-4 or NATO employees and their family members
- International employees of the US government aboard