Work visas and requirements for US citizens

Work Visa

More than 150 countries around the globe allow US citizens to visit without getting a tourist or business visa. But if you want to work in another country – even a country like Canada that allows US citizens to visit visa-free – you will need to have a work visa.

Work visas, also known as employment visas, are a form of residence visa. A visitor visa (tourist visa or business visa) only allows you to stay a short time in the country, usually no more than 30-90 days, but a residence visa allows you to live in the country for a much longer period of time. Residence visas like work visas often allow you to stay for a year or more, and can typically be extended while you are still in the country.

How to Get a Work Visa

The key to getting a work visa for any country is to have a job offer from a company in that country. You can’t get a work visa to go over to a country and look for a job. You must already have a solid job offer, and the company that wants to hire you will be your sponsor for your work visa. You’ll need to show a contract or other documentation of your job offer when you apply for your work visa.

You will need to apply for your work visa at the Embassy or Consulate of that country. The requirements for work visas vary widely from country to country, and may also vary according to your profession. You can confirm the specific requirements by working with a visa expediting company or by contacting the Consulate. Typical requirements for work visas often include:

  • Your Passport. Make sure your passport is signed, has blank visa pages, and will be valid for at least one year.
  • Passport-style photographs. These photos should be no more than six months old, and should have a plain, light-colored background.
  • Visa application. There may be multiple applications required for your work visa request.
  • Proof of your job offer.
  • Your resume or Curriculum Vitae.
  • A copy of your diploma. If you hold multiple degrees, you may need to submit copies of all your college and post-graduate degrees.
  • Copies of any professional certifications or licenses.

Some countries will require that your diplomas, certificates, or professional licenses must be legalized. Document legalization, also called document authentication or certification, is used on official documents like diplomas or birth certificates that will be used overseas. This is a multi-step process that begins with having your documents notarized, and may also involve having your documents certified by the Secretary of State of your state, the US Department of State, and the Embassy of your destination country.

Visas for Spouses and Children

If you’re moving to another country for work, you probably want to take your spouse and young children with you! You’ll be able to apply for visas for your dependents at the same time you apply for your work visa. You will need to prove the family relationship by submitting marriage and birth certificates.

Do You Need a Work Visa or a Business Visa?

If you have a short term work assignment overseas, you may be wondering if you need to get a work visa or a business visa. Ask yourself the questions below to help you figure out what type of visa you need. If you need more help, contact a visa expediting service for assistance with your visa request.

  • Will you be paid by a US employer for your trip? You need a business visa. Even if your US company has a contract and will be paid by a foreign company, if you are still getting paid by your US company, you need a business visa.
  • Are you drawing a salary from a foreign company? You need a work visa.
  • Do you have a job offer or employment contract from a foreign company? You need a work visa.
  • Will you be staying in the destination country for more than 3 months? You will likely need a work visa.


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