As US immigration lawyers in a New York law firm (with a new office in Dublin), we get asked all the time how to get a visa to live and work in the US.
For short-term trips, travel to the US is easy for Irish nationals as we qualify for the Visa Waiver Program. This permits trips for up to 90 days visa-free for business or pleasure but there is often little understanding of that program and the visa options for Irish nationals and what exactly is permitted and prohibited under each of the various visa categories.
The holy grail for those hoping to move there long term is the green card and permanent residence status, but in addition to this, there are approximately 35 other types of employment visas and work permits available.
The range of US employment visas covers most types of employment situations, from trainee internships to professional entrepreneur and expert positions. Unlike the green card, which confers permanent residence status, employment visas are time limited and usually employer and job specific. This means that when such a visa is issued to a person, that person is restricted to working for the sponsoring US-based employer in a specific role and for a specific length of time.
Because the US and Ireland are parties to a Treaty of Commerce, there is a separate visa category for entrepreneurs who are citizens of either country. An Irish citizen who invests in the US can be granted an E visa under this treaty if they set up a company in the US, subject to certain qualifying factors.
Other types of visas commonly availed of by Irish citizens are the J-I visa, which will be familiar to many Irish students and graduates, and the H-1 visa which is a six-year maximum employment visa given at the request of an eligible US employer to a qualifying applicant. This visa is subject to a quota however, which has been significantly short of demand in recent years and therefore often very difficult to get.
P visas are available to performers coming to the US, individually or as a part of a group to perform music, theatre, or multimedia. They require an agent or representative to initiate the visa process on their behalf.
Many entertainment personalities avail of the O-1 visa, which is defined as the visa for people of “outstanding ability and reputation in their field of endeavor”. It is a little known fact that the O-1 visa is also available to people in science, business and athletics. The standard is high and the application for an O-1 visa requires a lot of proof that the person is indeed outstanding in their profession.
Most US visas require pre-approval by a visa office in the US before a person can get an appointment at the US Embassy abroad, for example in Dublin.
Here are some tips for anyone thinking of living and working in the US:
1. Know exactly which visa you are applying for, the legal requirements for qualifying for that type of visa and the limits of that visa. Most US visas are not available under any circumstances to people with a criminal record, people who have previously violated US visa laws, and people who are likely to be unable to support themselves financially while in the US.
2. Know the time frame involved. The process can be as short as a couple of weeks or as long as several months, depending on the type of visa being sought.
3. Know the financial requirements of the visa application process. There are fees involved and some visa categories also require insurance to be in place.
4. Know the specifics of the Embassy application process. It is a highly precise online application process.
5. Get advice. There is a mass of misinformation and rumour surrounding the entire US visa process. Many people know only one phase or one type of US Visa. The US Embassy and US Department of State websites provide all the necessary administrative and procedural information. However these websites will not provide legal advice.
O'Malley & Associates will host a one-day information seminar on US visas at their new Dublin office at 20 Harcourt Street this Wednesday May 6th. Contact attorney Louise Corrigan for details on 01-697-8429 or at email@example.com