Aaron Tian

A Simple Guide to US Work Visas

With all the debate around immigration in the US, figuring out the latest Visa laws might feel like it’s getting more complex by the day. But with the proper research and resources by your side, you can break this intimidating process down bit by bit and find what’s right for you.

Though we’re not lawyers, our team at untapt has a plenty of personal experience applying for and hiring tech workers under Visas. If you’re looking for your ticket into working in the US or want to hire the absolute best talent from abroad, let us walk you through the different types of Work Visas below:


1. TN Visa: For citizens of Mexico and Canada.

One of the simplest and cheapest entry methods available, the TN Visa (created through NAFTA) can be acquired in just 1 week or even on the spot. Once they receive a job offer, Mexican citizens can go directly to a US Consulate/Embassy and Canadian citizens to any Port of Entry to begin an application. There is no limit to the number of times a Mexican or Canadian citizen can be granted TN status, provided their stay remains temporary non-immigrant.


  • Citizen of Mexico, Canada, or US
  • Qualified to work in this profession (College degree in relevant field or equivalent)
  • The job qualifies under NAFTA’s Job List
  • Official job offer in writing
  • Intention to stay is temporary

Visa Length: 3 Years to begin, with unlimited renewals (Non-Permanent)

Application Cost: $56 to the Employer or the Candidate

For more info and how to apply: See here


2. H-1B Visa: For highly-skilled professionals.

Applications for the 2019 H-1B just opened a few weeks ago, so it’s a trending topic. H-1Bs are pricier and tougher to acquire than the TN Visa, usually being reserved for the absolute best of the best. In order to be accepted, employers must prove that they can not find talent in the US to fill these roles, so non-US applicants with higher education and roles in Technology and Engineering get first priority.

For businesses, hiring a candidate with a pre-existing H-1B can be an excellent way to cut this process down significantly. For more information on how to do this, see here.


  • Role must be highly skilled (requiring College Degree or equivalent)
  • Candidate is qualified and legally allowed to work in this profession
  • Official job offer in writing
  • Intention to stay is temporary

Visa Length: 3 years with possibility of just one 3-year extension (Non-Permanent)

Application Cost: About $1600 – $7400 to the Employer, after lawyer fees

For more info and how to apply: See here


3. OPT Visa: For foreign students studying in the US.

For foreign students in university under the F1 Visa, it’s possible to work during enrollment or after graduation for up to 29 months on an OPT (Optional Practical Training) Visa. For workers, this can be an easy fix while applying for an H-1B Visa or Green Card.

It’s also a great and cheap solve for companies seeking highly-skilled entry level employees and interns. For fields like tech where talent can be so difficult to find, the F1 Visa is an excellent route.


  • Role must be related to candidate’s field of study
  • Candidate must work at least 20 hours a week

Visa Length: 12 months, can be extended an additional 17 months for qualified STEM students (Non-Permanent)

Application Cost: About $400, depending on university

For more info and how to apply: Contact your university


4. Green Card: For Prospective Permanent Residents

Permanent Residence Cards (AKA Green Cards) are given to immigrants and can be obtained following H-1Bs, a new job offer, a change in family circumstances (e.g. marriage), and more. Applicants are split into 5 levels of “preference” based on their skillset and specialization. Like the H-1B, selection will heavily favor more specialized professionals, though any workers can be accepted. This is one of the lengthiest and most expensive processes in the bunch, but is good for a lifetime once accepted.

If you’re hiring a candidate who already has a Green Card through another employer, you can save tons of time skipping the original wait period. See here for details.


  • Sponsorship from a company in the US
  • Employer must prove that the role cannot be filled by any US citizens (as approved by the Department of Labor)

Visa Length: 10+ years (permanent)

Application Cost: About $10,000 to the Employer

For more info and how to apply: See here

We hope this guide was helpful! While we are not lawyers, we compiled all of this information through our own personal experience and extensive research to help make it a bit easier for you.

Finding truly great talent and opportunities in the world of tech can be so rare. While Visas might feel like the last thing you want to deal with, there’s simply no shortcut when building a team with the right people.

If you’re a developer or hiring manager looking to find your perfect match in the tech field, be sure to try untapt today!