Computer/IT Professionals Work Visa
This section covers computer/IT professionals including: Programmer Analysts, Systems Analysts, Software Engineers, Database Management Professionals, Network Administrators, IT Security Engineers.
Usually, Computer Professionals (IT Professionals) initially come to the United States to work on a non-immigrant employment visa rather than on an immigrant visa because non-immigrant visas are faster to get. While in Non-Immigrant status, Computer Professionals may simultaneously start the immigration process to obtain a green card (permanent residence) by filing an Application for Alien Labor Certification.
The most common temporary Non-Immigrant work visa is the H1-b temporary work visa, the professional working visa. In order to qualify for the H1-b visa, the Computer Professional must be a graduate of a four-year University and will be employed in a job related to his/her field of study.
For example, a person with a four- year degree in computer science is eligible for a professional H1-b work visa if he or she is taking a job in the computer industry.
The computer industry, however, is unique because of the fact that so many of its "best people" are professionals in their fields without the benefit of a university education. For those Computer Professionals who have less than a four year university education, the INS will allow the computer professionals to qualify for a H1-b visa by substituting three years of progressive work experience for each year of college the Computer Professional is missing from that of a four year degree.
For example, a person with the U.S. equivalent of two full years study in Mathematics and six years documented progressive work experience as a computer programmer may be eligible to obtain a H1-b visa to be employed in the United States as a Computer Programmer.
The H1-b visa is generally valid for three years and can be renewed for an additional three years giving the computer professional a total of 6 years of temporary employment in the United States.
During the temporary six years of employment, the sponsoring company can sponsor the computer professional for a green card, via Alien Labor Certification, which is discussed below. In certain circumstances, the six years of H1-b status can be extended in one year increments should the Computer Professional be sponsored by his/her company for a green card.
Another non-immigrant visa available to computer professionals is the O-1 visa. O-1 visas are the "extraordinary ability visas", available to Computer Professionals in their field who have demonstrated sustained national or international acclaim. For this category, extraordinary ability refers to persons who have risen to "a level of expertise indicating that the person is one of the small percentage who … (are) in the very top of the field of endeavor." Non-Immigrant O-1 visas are approved for one to three year increments and can be renewed indefinitely. Further if the Computer Professional can qualify for an O-1 visa, then he or she should be able to qualify to self petition himself or herself for a green card based on extraordinary ability.