How to Change a US Tourist Visa to a Work Visa

If you are visiting the US for tourism or medical treatment, you might have a B-1/B-2 tourist visa.

This visa allows you to stay in the US for a limited period of time, but it does not allow you to work.

However, if you receive an employment offer while on a tourist visa, you might be able to change your status to a work visa.

A work visa enables you to work in the US temporarily in a specialized occupation.

How to Change a US Tourist Visa to a Work Visa
How to Change a US Tourist Visa to a Work Visa

 

In this article, I will explain how to change your status from a tourist visa to a work visa in the US.

Identify the Appropriate Work Visa Category

The first step is to identify the most suitable work visa category for your situation.

There are different types of work visas available, depending on your skills, qualifications, and the job offer you have received. Some of the common work visa categories are:

  • H-1B Visa: For professionals in specialty occupations, such as engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc.
  • L-1 Visa: For intracompany transferees, such as managers, executives, or specialized knowledge workers who are transferred from a foreign branch of a company to a US branch.
  • E-2 Visa: For investors from treaty countries who invest a substantial amount of money in a US business.
  • O-1 Visa: For individuals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
  • J-1 Visa: For exchange visitors in specific programs, such as internships, research scholars, teachers, etc.
  • T.N. Visa: For Canadian and Mexican professionals under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

You should consult an experienced immigration attorney to determine which work visa category is best for you.

Secure a Job Offer

The next step is to secure a job offer from a US employer who is willing to sponsor you for a work visa.

The employer must file a petition on your behalf with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

The petition serves as a request to employ you and demonstrates that you meet the requirements of the specific work visa category.

Employer Files a Petition

The third step is for your prospective employer to file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with USCIS.

This form must be filed before your tourist visa expires.

Along with the form, your employer must submit supporting documentation, such as:

  • A copy of your passport and tourist visa
  • A copy of your resume and educational credentials
  • A copy of the job offer letter and contract
  • A description of the job duties and requirements
  • Evidence of the employer’s ability to pay the prevailing wage
  • Evidence of your qualifications and skills for the job

The filing fee for Form I-129 is $460.

Depending on the work visa category, there may be additional fees or requirements.

Approval of Petition

The fourth step is to wait for the approval of your petition.

USCIS will review your petition and supporting documents and decide whether to approve or deny it.

The processing time varies depending on the work visa category and the workload of USCIS.

You can check the status of your petition online  or by calling USCIS.

If your petition is approved, you can proceed with the change of status process.

If it is denied, you may explore alternative options or address any issues raised by USCIS.

Application for Change of Status

The fifth and final step is to apply for a change of status using Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.

This form allows you to request a change from your current B-1/B2 tourist visa status to the desired work visa status.

You must file this form before your tourist visa expires.

Along with Form I-539, you must submit:

You may also need to provide additional documents depending on the work visa category.

After filing Form I-539, you will receive a receipt notice from USCIS.

You will also be scheduled for biometrics appointment at an Application Support Center (ASC).

You must attend this appointment and provide your fingerprints and photograph.

USCIS will then review your application and decide whether to approve or deny it.

The processing time varies depending on the work visa category and the workload of USCIS.

You can check the status of your application online or by calling USCIS.

If your application is approved, you will receive a new Form I-94 with your new work visa status and expiration date.

You can then start working for your employer in the US.

If your application is denied, you must leave the US before your tourist visa expires or face deportation.

Conclusion

Changing your status from a tourist visa to a work visa in the US is possible, but it requires careful planning, preparation, and compliance with immigration regulations.

You must identify the appropriate work visa category, secure a job offer, have your employer file a petition, wait for the approval of your petition, and apply for a change of status.

You must also submit all the required forms, fees, and documents and follow the instructions from USCIS.

Changing your status from a tourist visa to a work visa is not easy, but it can be rewarding.

It can open up new opportunities for you to work and live in the US.

However, you should always consult an immigration attorney before making any decisions or taking any actions regarding your immigration status.

An immigration attorney can advise you on the best course of action for your situation and help you avoid any pitfalls or mistakes that could jeopardize your chances of success.

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