Glossary of Terms
Terms and Definitions
Applicant (Visa): A foreign citizen who is applying for a nonimmigrant or immigrant U.S. visa. The visa applicant may also be referred as a beneficiary for petition based visas.
Certificate of Naturalization: A document issued by the DHS as proof that the person has become a U.S. citizen (naturalized) after immigration to the U.S.
Dual intent: Certain Visa types (the H-1B and L-1 Visas) allow a foreign national to enter the U.S. as a nonimmigrant, even if s/he has filed, or intends to file, for permanent residence. This is not allowed in other non-immigrant Visa categories.
Green card: A wallet-sized card showing that the person is a lawful permanent resident (immigrant) in the U.S. It is also known as a permanent resident card (PRC), an alien registration receipt card or the USCIS I-551.
H-1B Visa: The U.S. H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa, which allows a U.S. company to employ a foreign individual for up to six years. Staff required on long-term assignments in the U.S. are often brought into the country initially using a non-immigrant visa such as the H-1B visa since the application process for a non-immigration visa is generally faster than applying for a U.S. Green Card. Individuals cannot apply directly for an H-1B visa – the employer must petition for entry on behalf the employee. H-1B visas are subject to annual numerical limits.
The H-1B Visa is intended for occupations that require a high degree of specialized knowledge, often referred to as “specialty occupations.” A list of these occupations can be found at here. Generally at least the equivalent of a job-relevant 4-year US Bachelor’s degree is required (this requirement can usually be met by having a 3-year degree and 3 years’ relevant post-graduate experience). However, professionals such as lawyers, doctors, accountants and others must be licensed to practice in the state of intended employment – e.g. a lawyer must generally have passed the relevant state bar exam.
H-1B dependent employers: Recent H-1B legislation requires certain employers, called ‘H-1B dependent employers’ to advertise positions in the U.S. before petitioning to employ H-1B workers for those positions. H-1B dependent employers are defined as those having more than 15% of their employees in H-1B status (for firms with over 50 employees – small firms are allowed a higher percentage of H-1B employees before becoming ‘dependent’). In addition to the usual filing fees associated with H-1B Visa, all new H-1B petitions and 1st extensions of H-1B Visas now require an additional fee of $1,500 to be paid, intended to fund training programs for resident U.S. workers. But if the employer has less than 25 full-time employees, they must pay only one-half of the required fee which is $750.
More information on H-1B Visa costs and fees can be found here.
The initial H-1B Visa may be granted for up to three years. It may then be extended, in the first instance for up to two further years, and eventually for one further year, to a maximum of six years. Those wishing to remain in the U.S. for more than six years may apply for permanent residence (the “green card”) while in the U.S. on an H-1B Visa. If such employees do not gain permanent residence, when the six year period runs out, they must live outside the U.S. for at least one year before an application is made for them to enter on an H or an L visa.
Click here for more information on the L Visa program.
If an employer dismisses an employee brought over on an H1B Visa before the expiration period, the employer is liable for any reasonable costs that the employee incurs in moving back to their home country. This provision covers only dismissal; it is not relevant when an employee chooses to resign.
H-1C Visa: A temporary work visaprovided to nonimmigrant registered nurses working in a health professional shortage area as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor. Hospitals that can demonstrate nursing shortages may apply to sponsor foreign nurses. Only 500 H-1C visas are granted annually. The visa is valid for three years and cannot be extended. In order to qualify for the H1C visa, the nurse must be licensed or have obtained a nursing degree in the US and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. More information on H-1C visas can be found here.
H-2B Visa (Temporary or Seasonal Nonagricultural Workers): The H-2B non-agricultural temporary worker program allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary nonagricultural jobs. The H-2B visa is granted to non-agricultural employers who can demonstrate a seasonal labor need that cannot be satisfied with domestic workers.
There is an annual cap imposed on the H-2B visa program that limits the number of visas available. The visa ties the worker to a specific worker and allows contracts for up to 10 months. Employers are required to pay foreign workers prevailing wages and provide housing, though they may charge for this service. Unlike the H-2A program, H-2B employers are not required to offer 3/4 of the hours promised in the original work contractor to pay for the workers’ travel costs to and from their country of origin.
I-551 (Green Card): Permanent residence card or alien registration receipt card or “green card.”
Immigrant Visa: A visa for a person who plans to live as a permanent inhabitant in the U.S.
J Visa: The exchange visitor (J) nonimmigrant visa category is provided for persons who are approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the U.S., under provisions of U.S. immigration law. Exchange visitor categories in many different professions, including physicians, specialists, teachers, students, and research scholars.
The J-1 Visa
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program (J-1 Visa Program) currently includes 13 different exchange program categories. Depending on the particular category chosen, a visa obtained under the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program will allow a foreign national to work, train, or travel legally in the United States.
Entry under the J-1 Visa program
Each category of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program has sponsoring organizations designated by the U.S. Department of State. The Department of State must authorize the entry of a foreign national for the purpose of completing the objectives of a specific program they have approved. The Department of State then issues forms DS-2109 and DS-7002 which, along with other necessary documents, must be presented at the appropriate U.S. Embassy in order to obtain the J-1 Visa.
An applicant’s spouse and children should be able to obtain a J-2 Visa to accompany the applicant to the U.S. or to join him or her at a later date. A J-2 visa application should be submitted for each dependant either at the same time as the J-1 visa application or at a subsequent date.
An applicant and his or her dependants must: pay for round-trip air travel; bring sufficient funds to cover all living expenses to be incurred in the U.S.; and purchase adequate health insurance which is mandatory for this visa.
At the conclusion of their program, participants are expected to return to their home countries.
The J-1 Exchange Visitor Program categories
The various J-1 Visa categories cover the Private, Academic, and Government Sectors and can be found at Exchange Visa Visitors site.
Labor Certification: The initial stage of the process by which certain foreign workers get permission to work in the U.S. The employer is responsible for getting the labor certification from the Department of Labor.
Naturalization: A citizen who acquires nationality of a country after birth. That is, the person did not become a citizen by birth, but by a legal procedure.
Nonimmigrant Visa (NIV): A U.S. visa allows the bearer, a foreign citizen, to apply to enter the U.S. temporarily for a specific purpose. Nonimmigrant visas are primarily classified according to the principal purpose of travel. With few exceptions, while in the U.S., non-immigrants are restricted to the activity or reason for which their visa was issued. Examples of persons who may receive non-immigrant visas are students (F), visitors (B), temporary workers (H).
Out of status: A U.S. visa allows the bearer to apply for entry to the U.S. in a certain classification, for a specific purpose such as student (F), visitor (B), temporary worker (H) visas. Every visa is issued for a particular purpose and for a specific class of visitor. Each visa classification has a set of requirements that the visa holder must follow and maintain. When you arrive in the U.S., a DHS CBP inspector determines whether you will be admitted, length of stay and conditions of stay in, the U.S. When admitted you are given a Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record), which tells you when you must leave the U.S. The date granted on the I-94 card at the airport governs how long you may stay in the U.S. If you do not follow the requirements, you stay longer than that date, or you engage in activities not permitted for your particular type of visa, you violate your status and are considered be “out of status”. It is important to understand the concept of immigration status and the consequences of violating that status. Failure to maintain status can result in arrest, and violators may be required to leave the U.S. Violation of status also can affect the prospect of readmission to the U.S. for a period of time, by making you ineligible for a visa. Most people who violate the terms of their status are barred from lawfully returning to the U.S. for years.
Prevailing Wage: The average wage of workers that are similarly employed within the area of intended employment. There are four levels of prevailing wages based on the level of education, skill, and experience required. The four levels for nonagricultural immigration programs are:
- Entry level: Assigned to job offers for beginning level employees who have only a basic understanding of the occupation. Entry level employees are closely supervised, and may be research fellows, interns, or workers in training.
- Qualified: Assigned to job offers for employees who have attained, through education or experience, a good understanding of the occupation. Some previous work-related skill, knowledge, or experience is usually required.
- Experienced: Assigned to job offers for experienced employees who have a sound understanding of the occupation and have attained special knowledge either through education or experience. Employees in this wage level are usually required to have one or two years of both on-the-job and informal training or education with experienced workers.
- Fully competent: Assigned to job offers for competent employees who have sufficient experience in the occupation to plan and conduct work requiring judgment and the independent evaluation, selection, modification, and application of standard procedures and techniques. These jobs require employees with advanced skills and diverse knowledge who are able to solve complex problems.
For more information on prevailing wage, visit: www.flcdatacenter.com/.
Skills List: The Exchange Visitor Skills List (J Visas) is a list of fields of specialized knowledge and skills that are deemed necessary for the development of an exchange visitor’s home country. When you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program, if your skill is on your country’s Skills List you are subject to the two-year foreign residence (home-country physical presence) requirement, which requires you to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program, under U.S. law.
Temporary Worker: A foreign worker who will work in the U.S. for a limited period of time. Some visas classes for temporary workers are H, L, O, P, Q and R. If you are seeking to come to the U.S. for employment as a temporary worker in the U.S. (H, L, O, P, and Q visas), your prospective employer must file a petition with the DHS, USCIS. This petition must be approved by USCIS before you can apply for a visa.
Two Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement: This refers to (J) exchange visitors who are required to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program, under U.S. immigration law.
Work Authorization: If you are not a citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you may need to apply for an Employment Authorization Document to prove you may work in the U.S.