Immigration & Employment

The two government agencies that are most involved in immigration are the US Office of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is part of the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of State.

For information about the USCIS Field Office, visit its website.  USCIS also has National Customer Service Center you can reach by a toll free number, 1-800-375-5283, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

USCIS has an excellent website, accessible in 22 languages, that explains the U.S. immigration law, the procedures, and the paper work involved.  The USCIS website should be the place you start for basic, accurate information. 

Federal Categories

See the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs.  It includes employment related questions and hundreds of other questions and answers. Forms and instructions for getting a Visa are on the State Department's Visa Services page.  There are particular procedures for getting a Visa for employment that depends on the type of employment.

There are several types of temporary, or “non-immigrant” employment visas.  These visas are only valid for a limited time period. They do not allow the visa holder to work in the United States permanently. Non-immigrant employment-based visa categories include:

  • H-1B Visa:  This type of visa is only available to individuals who will perform work in a “specialty occupation.”  A “specialty occupation” usually requires a college degree or other specialized education or work experience. A limited number of H-1B visas are available each year, and the worker must be sponsored by an employer in the United States. H-1B visas are typically granted for up to three years at a time, with the possibility for a three-year renewal.
  • L Visa: This type of visa is only available to managers, executives, or employees with “specialized knowledge” who will be transferred from a company’s office abroad to the same company or its affiliate’s office in the United States. L visas are typically granted for up to three years at a time, with the possibility for a two-year renewal.
  • R-1 Visa: This type of visa is only available to individuals who will be employed by a non-profit religious organization in the United States to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation. R visas are typically granted for up to 30 months at a time, with the possibility for a 30-month renewal.

An individual may also obtain permission to immigrate to the United States permanently for employment purposes. There are five categories of employment-based immigrant visas.

  • First Preference (EB-1 Priority Workers): aliens with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and certain multinational executives and managers.
  • Second Preference (EB-2 Workers with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability): aliens who are members of the professions holding advanced degrees or their equivalent and aliens who, because of their exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, will substantially benefit the national economy, cultural, or educational interests or welfare of the United States.
  • Third Preference (EB-3 Professionals, Skilled Workers, and Other Workers): aliens with at least two years of experience as skilled workers, professionals with a baccalaureate degree, and others with less than two years of experience, such as an unskilled workers, who can perform labor for which qualified workers are not available in the United States.
  • Fourth Preference (EB-4 Special Immigrants such as those in a Religious Occupation or Vocation): aliens who fall under the definition of “special immigrants,” which includes certain religious workers and physicians. To qualify as a special immigrant religious worker, the alien must have, for at least two years before applying for admission to the United States, been a member of a religious denomination that has a non-profit religious organization in the United States; and must be seeking to enter the United States to work in a full-time, compensated position work in a religious vocation or occupation at the request of the religious organization.
  • Fifth Preference (EB-5 Employment Creation): aliens who invest at least $1 Million (or $500,000 if the investment is made in a targeted employment area) in a new commercial enterprise that employs at least 10 full-time U.S. workers.

For more specifics about the criteria, see the State Department's Tips for U.S. Visas: Employment-Based Visas.

 The Social Security Administration has a Fact Sheet you can read online or print about what Asylees and Refugees must do in order to be able to work in the United States.

Farm Workers

The Farm Labor Contractor's Law requires all farm labor contractors who work in Maryland to be licensed by the Commissioner of Labor and Industry. The law also imposes duties on a farm labor contractor regarding the employment, housing and transportation of migrant agricultural workers. Growers must verify that a farm labor contractor is licensed before using the contractor's services.

Licensing Requirements:

  • Completion of application form
  • $25 application fee.
  • Two recent passport-size color photographs of the applicant.
  • U.S. Department of Labor registration as a farm labor contractor, with authorization to drive and transport migrant agricultural workers (if applicable).
  • Proof of workers' compensation insurance.
  • Proof of vehicle insurance issued by a Maryland-authorized company for each vehicle to be used to transport migrant agricultural workers in Maryland.

Licensing Fee: $25 per year. Licensing year begins March 1. Read the Law: MD Code Labor & Employment §7–101


Edited by Kerstin M. Miller, Esq., Smith & Downey, P.A.

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