Work Visas: What Temporary Workers Can and Can’t Do in the US

Temporary workers are allowed to live and work in the US for a specific period of time. This type of worker is very important to the US economy, as temporary labor is sometimes needed for seasonal work or for specific rises in demand in some industries. Workers who enter the US and are authorized to work on a temporary basis can enter under many different visas and designations, including E-1 (Treaty traders and qualified employees) visas,   E-2 (Treaty investors and qualified employees) visas, E-3 (“specialty occupation” professionals from Australia) designations, H-1B (specialty occupations) visas, H-2A (temporary agricultural workers) visas and more.

In order to qualify for a temporary worker position and temporary work authorization, an applicant must generally get an employer or prospective employer to make a nonimmigrant visa application on the worker’s behalf. This process is intended to ensure that US jobs and standards of work are protected from unfair competition.

Once a temporary worker enters the US with the correct authorization, he or she can live and work in the US for the time outlined on their nonimmigrant visa. Once the visa and authorization expires, the worker must either leave the country or apply to the USCIS for a change of status or an extension. Some employers will help workers with this process. Temporary workers must take the work they agree to take on in their USCIS petition. They cannot seek out other work or switch employers, in most cases, without seeking additional authorization.

Each temporary work visa and authorization has different conditions and rules. It is important for workers to carefully follow these restrictions regarding work, employment, travel, and address changes. Some temporary work visas do allow temporary workers to bring dependent spouses and children with them to US. This will require a separate visa application. In all cases, temporary workers and their dependent families arriving on a visa are not qualified for federal social assistance and cannot vote. They also cannot travel as freely as someone in the US on an immigrant visa. Temporary workers also cannot establish a permanent residence in the US. In order to do this, they must adjust their status or apply for a green card.