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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Working Legally in the U.S.: Obtaining a Work Visa

Many Americans know that it is possible for immigrants to work legally in the United States- after all, in 2009, over 1 million immigrants were legally admitted to the country (Public Agenda). In Enrique’s Journey, both Lourdes and Enrique wanted to come to the United States briefly- to work and then return to Honduras. However, the process to obtain a work visa can be difficult and costly- a hurdle that is often too much for many. Like millions of others, Enrique and his mother chose to take the dangerous journey to become undocumented workers in the United States.

What makes it so difficult to obtain a work visa? The process varies depending on the type of work one intends to do. Work visas exist for temporary workers, permanent workers, and special cases for student and exchange visitors and temporary business visitors.

There are even further sub-types of visas, such as the temporary H-2A visa for agriculture workers. In order to obtain a temporary or permanent work visa, a worker’s new American employer must file a non-immigrant petition on his or her behalf. Additional hurdles may apply. For example, for the H2A Agriculture Visa, employers must demonstrate that American workers are not available to accomplish the work.

While this need for an existing connection to an American employer might be difficult for many temporary workers to obtain, monetary costs are another factor. An Application for Employment Authorization has a filing fee of $380- and other types of forms can cost even more. For families that cannot even afford to feed their children- like many in Enrique’s Journey, this expensive, long process is often impossible.

Interested in learning more? Visit the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website, which is also available in Spanish.

Sarah Leeman

Graduate Student

2 thoughts on “Working Legally in the U.S.: Obtaining a Work Visa

  1. The U.S. Visa processes, compared with many other countries around the world, take usually longer than they should. In the case of visas for most of south americans, at least, it takes around 4 weeks to get the any kind of visa. My personal opinion is that the us visa waiver program should be extended to include more countries.