Understanding Employment Visas
Phillip M. Perry, Staff Editor, Area Development (Nov 07)

Documents certifying that foreign nationals - people who are natives of other countries - are eligible to work in the United States are called employment visas. Not all employment visas are alike; in fact, there are many different kinds. To see the full array of visas with explanations, visit the website maintained by the U.S. Department of State at www.unitedstatesvisas.gov.

Many employers hire unskilled workers with H-2B visas, valid for temporary employment of up to a year. "There is a tremendous need for people to fill such positions in this country," says David Kotick, managing partners of Aspan Law Group, an immigration law firm in New York.

Arrangements for H-2B visas can take up to four months to complete. The process begins when the employer obtains a labor verification from the U.S. Department of Labor. Then the employer files a petition with the Department of Homeland Security. When that petition is approved, the worker can apply for a visa and passport from the U.S. Consulate in his or her home country.

The United States limits such visas to 66,000 annually. "It's nowhere near enough," says Kotick. "They run out very quickly and there is a severe labor shortage for these workers that affects business profits and the economy as a whole."