How to Apply for a US Working Visa


Once you have identified which US working visa to apply for, the next step is to deal with your application.

The specific application process to follow will be determined by the visa category you are applying for. You will also need to check if there are special requirements of the US consular post where you will be filing your petition.


US Working Visa Application Guide 

As a general guide, to apply for a temporary, nonimmigrant US visa, you will need to do the following.

1. Complete the US visa application form 

The first stage will be to complete the online application form for nonimmigrant visas, DS 160. The form is extensive and covers areas such as your contact details, travel and employment history. You will also need to upload a photograph of yourself in a format that complies with US visa photo requirements and pay the application fee.

Each traveller will need to have a DS-160 completed, including children.

Once completed, print off at least one copy of the confirmation page. You will need to present this at your visa interview.

Some visa categories require additional forms to be completed:

  • E1 treaty trade visa or E-1 or E-2 Executive/Manager/Essential Employee: Form DS-156E
  • Blanket L-1: Form I-129S
  • F/M visa – students: Form I-20 and SEVIS Receipt
  • J visa – exchange visitors: DS-2019 and SEVIS Receipt
  • H, O or P visa temporary workers, artists, athletes: Form I-797 and other documents related to your employment
  • I visa journalists and C1/D visa crew: Letter from employer verifying details of employment, and letter from inviting organization in the US, if applicable


2. Compile supporting documents 

Ahead of your visa interview, you will need to gather all necessary supporting documents. These will need to be taken to your visa interview to present as evidence at the adjudicator’s request.

Good preparation can’t be underestimated. If you are without adequate evidence, your application is at risk of refusal or, if the adjudicator requests that further evidence be submitted for a decision to be made, your application becomes subject to delays.

The nature of the supporting evidence will be determined by the visa classification and your own circumstances. For example, if you have traveled extensively you should come prepared to be able to clarify any queries the adjudicator may have.

Some visas are more onerous than others in evidentiary terms. The B tourist visa for example will be less onerous in evidentiary terms than say the E-2 visa, which demands a business plan and extensive analysis and evidence to support the viability of the business venture on which the application is based.

Generally, you will need to bring as a minimum:

  • Valid passport, with at least six months left after the date you intend to depart the USA
  • DS-160 confirmation page
  • Application payment receipt
  • Photograph, compliant with US visa photo requirements
  • Travel itinerary & details (note it is recommended not to book travel without first having secured the visa)
  • Evidence of access to funds sufficient to maintain you during your stay in the US
  • Evidence of your intention to leave the US at the end of your stay eg sufficient ties to your country of residence


3. Attend the US visa interview

Following submission of your application form, you will be required to attend a visa interview at the Consular post where you filed your petition. Travellers under 13 or over 80 will not usually need to attend an interview.

The purpose of the interview is to satisfy the consular officer that you are eligible to travel to the US under the relevant nonimmigrant visa. You will be asked questions based on your application form and on the general grounds for admissibility. This is where you will need to present your supporting evidence.

After the interview, the consular officer will decide whether to grant or decline your visa application, or whether further information is required before a decision can be made.

The waiting time for interviews varies by season, location and the category of visa you have applied for, so it is always advised to apply for your visa as soon as you can.

You will also have your biometric information taken while at the consulate.


Employer US visa petitions

Some classifications of work visa will first require the employer to file a petition before the individual can make their visa application. For example:

  • For the H-B visa, your prospective employer must file a labor condition application with the Department of Labor. This will set out the terms and conditions of your proposed employment to verify its eligibility for the route. An employment-based petition must also be filed by your prospective employer on your behalf with USCIS.
  • For the E-2 visa, for the business itself first has to apply for E-2 company registration.
  • For the L-1 visa, a petition must be filed by your employer and approved by USCIS before applying for the visa at a US Embassy or Consulate. Employers who regularly transfer under L-1 should consider the Blanket L option to expedite processing.


Where an employer petition is required, close liaison with your prospective employer will help ensure all information is provided and included within the petition, and that all required fees are paid. Errors or omissions can result in delays – this is generally undesirable given US worker visas can take several months to process.


Do you need advice on a US Working Visa?

Contact us for guidance on your US visa options and application.



Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

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