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Non-Immigrant Visa Process

  • Corporate Registration


    Before an employer may file most work visa petitions, it must first register with the U.S. Department of Labor and verify its corporate existence.  This is an anti-fraud mechanism designed to ensure that all petitions are being filed by actual companies.  The processing time for this step can take up to one week to complete.

  • Educational Evaluation


    All of the work visas Thompson Immigration assists with require at least a U.S. bachelor's degree or its equivalent in order for a candidate to qualify for the visa.  Because of this, if a foreign national was educated outside of the United States, his or her educational credentials must be evaluated by an independent credentialing consultant to determine whether his or her education (and work experience, if necessary) is equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree or higher.

  • "Prevailing Wage" Determination


    An employer must pay the prevailing wage for a particular position in the geographic regions where the foreign worker will be employed.  This wage is generally set by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), usually through their prevailing wage office in Washington, D.C.  However, an employer may also use either: (a) the DOL’s prevailing wage data, which it collects on an annual basis; or (b) a private compensation survey, so long as it meets the DOL’s statistical requirements.


    Generally, an employer should utilize the DOL’s prevailing wage office in Washington, D.C.  The reason is simple.  Doing so provides a “safe haven” that the employer is using the correct prevailing wage should the DOL audit the employer.  However, if time constraints do not allow this approach, the other approaches may also be used.  The processing time for obtaining a prevailing wage varies over time, but can be as long as four weeks.

  • File Labor Condition Application With DOL


    Once the prevailing wage has been determined, a “Labor Condition Application” (LCA) must be filed with the DOL. The LCA is a legal contract between the employer and DOL in which the employer certifies that the salary being offered meets the actual or prevailing wage for the position for which the foreign national is being sponsored for the geographic region where the foreign national will be employed.  The processing time for obtaining a certified LCA is typically seven business days.


    LCA Audits


    IMPORTANT: The DOL may audit an employer's salary records either on its own accord or based on a complaint from an employee.  The DOL can require an employer which is not in compliance with the LCA regulations to:


    • Pay the employee the amount of back pay owed;
    • Impose significant penalties for non-compliance;
    • Bar the employer from filing additional LCAs (and, therefore, work visa petitions) for multiple years; and
    • Charge corporate officials with criminal violations that can impose jail time.


    Note that the DOL typically sides with the employee in these matters.  This is because one of the DOL's purposes is to protect workers from discrimination by employers.  Because of this, if the DOL audits an employer's records, it is in the empoo9yer's best interests to retain an attorney to assist in responding to the audit.  For more information on LCA audits, please click here.


  • File Petition With USCIS


    Once all of the above initial steps are completed, a work visa petition can be filed either with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The processing time for most work visas is approximately three months.  However, this processing time can be reduced to 14 business days if the petition is filed under the "premium processing" program.  Under this program, the USCIS will either approve or request additional evidence within this 14 day period.


    An employee's family should apply for a dependent status visa at the same time.  This is important because you do not want an employee to have one immigration status expiration date, and his or her family to have a different expiration date. This can result in an employee being able to remain in the United States while his or her family are required to depart for overstaying their visa.


    "E-3" Australian Visa Processing Alternative


    There is a significant difference int he processing of an Australian "E-3" visa petition. Because this visa category is under a separate section of the law, an employer may bypass the USCIS filing requirement if the sponsored employee is located in Australia.    Instead, they may apply directly to the U.S. Embassy or consulate with jurisdiction over their place of residence.  This both speeds up the process and reduces the government processing fees.


  • File Visa Application With U.S. State Department


    If the foreign national is not in the United States, once the USCIS approves the work visa petition, they must apply for a visa stamp from the U.S. State Department for a visa stamp before they may enter the United States.  For additional details on this process, please click here.


The application process for most U.S. work visas are the same.  This includes the following types of work visas:


  • H-1B (bachelor's level work visas for any nationality)
  • H-1B master's level work visas for any nationality
  • H-1B1 work visas for Chile and Singapore nationals
  • E-3 work visas for Australian nationals


IMPORTANT: All of these visa processes consist of multiple steps. Because of this, employers must ensure that they start the visa application process early enough to ensure an approval is received in the time frame required by the employer.



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