The rules and regulations surrounding foreign workers in the United States are always a hot topic among legislators and are subject to frequent changes and modifications. Nevertheless there are an estimated 14 million foreigners legally earning their living in the US at the present time and, with the tech giants of Silicon Valley pushing for larger quotas of foreign skilled workers, that number looks set only to increase.

A significant proportion of people moving to New York will have already been hired by a New York based company or will be transferring within a multinational corporation to a New York based job. This is especially common in the financial services and technology sectors. But being brought over by an employer isn’t the only way to gain eligibility to work in the US.
Even more than most developed nations the immigration and citizenship rules of the US are incredibly complicated, leading to a huge plethora of ways to gain permission to work in New York. Here we’ll run through the most common options.

Permanent residence visa

A Permanent Residence Visa, commonly know as a Green Card, entitles the holder to live and work anywhere in the US on a permanent basis. Such a visa can be applied for and granted on the basis of:

Family ties (including marriage to a US citizen)
Employment in the US (where the employer ‘sponsors’ the application)
Possessing professional qualifications, skills or specialities which are in demand in the US
Investing in US business
Through winning one of 50,000 immigrant visa places distributed by lottery each year to applicants born in certain countries

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H-1B Visa – Skilled Worker

The H-1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa for professionally qualified or skilled workers which grants them the right to live and work in the US for three years (though it can be extended to six years).
This is normally done through a sponsoring employer. If an H-1B holder leaves or loses the job with the sponsoring employer they normally have to find a new employer to sponsor their stay or leave the country.

The H-1B visa can lead to a Permanent Residency Visa.
Spouses and children of H-1B holders are eligible for the H4 visa – one which doesn’t allow for paid employment.

L-1 Visa (Intracompany Transferee)

These are nonimmigrant visas for people who are taking up a US based job in a company they have worked for elsewhere in the world. The sponsoring company normally has to prove that the visa applicant has a specialised skillset or knowledge or that they’re essential to the high-level operation of the business.

L-1 visas are valid for 5 or 7 years. The holder must remain in the employ of the sponsoring company in order for the visa to remain valid (though you could switch to an H-1B visa if changing employer).
Spouses and children of the L-1 visa holder are eligible for L-2 visas which do allow Social Security Numbers and paid employment.

Guest Worker Programme

The H-2A visa allows companies to employ foreign nationals for temporary or seasonal work. It is mostly used in the agricultural industry and cannot lead to longer term residence visas.

J-1 Visa – Exchange Programme

J-1 visas are a type of nonimmigrant visa granted to people participating in exchange programmes. Normally they will be sponsored by a participating organisation and will only be able to work for that organisation during their stay.

JF-1 Visa – Student Visa

F-1 visas are a type of nonimmigrant visa for full-time students at US institutions. They allow up to 20 hours of on-campus employment per week. They also permit application for OPT or CPT programmes which allow up to 12 months of training through employment upon completion of studies.

Employment Authorisation Document

This is commonly referred to as a work permit and entitles the holder to legally take up employment in the US. They are required for anyone whose visa does not automatically grant this status (e.g. asylum seekers, spouses and dependents) and can be applied for via the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) by filing Form I-765.

The above is just a guide to the different options available to live and work in the US. You should consult the proper representatives if you have any questions.