Employers who wish to hire foreign workers to temporarily perform services or labor or to receive training may file an I-129 petition. The I-129 is mainly used for nonimmigrant categories; thus, in most cases, workers who enter the United States under this petition must depart the U.S. when their maximum period of stay has been reached. Form I-129 may also be used to petition for an extension of stay or change of status for certain nonimmigrants.
There are many categories of workers who are temporary visitors and who may be petitioned for on the I-129. These nonimmigrant classifications are symbolized by letters which generally correspond to the visas issued by the State Department. Only those categories incorporating employment or investment will be covered here.
To see the section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that applies to temporary worker categories, see §101(a)(15). For the law applying to NAFTA categories, See §214(e).
Filing the I-129 Petition
USCIS Form I-129 consists of a basic petition and different supplements that apply to the various visa categories. In order to petition for a temporary worker, the prospective employer or agent must file Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, and the appropriate supplement with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) accompanied by the required payment, and initial evidence or documentation.
In some cases, the employer must get a certificate from the Department of Labor prior to filing the I-129. This process is described below in the appropriate categories.
Once the petition is approved, the employer or agent is sent a Notice of Approval, Form I-797. Approval of a petition does not guarantee visa issuance to an applicant. Applicants must also establish that they are admissible to the U.S. under provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).
Applying for the Visa
If the prospective worker (beneficiary) is outside of the country, he must apply for a visa. After the USCIS has approved the I-129 and sent notice to the consulate in the beneficiary’s country, the beneficiary must file a visa application with the consulate. Some aliens may be visa exempt. In those cases, the I-129 approval notice is sent to the port of entry (POE) where the beneficiary intends to apply for admission. For specific procedures on Visa Application Procedures, Required Documentation and Visa Ineligibility Waiver, please visit Visa Services at the Department of State.
If the beneficiary is already in the U.S. and is changing from one nonimmigrant status to another, a visa is not required. However, a visa may be required if the beneficiary subsequently leaves the U.S. and wishes to re-enter.
Entry into the U.S.
Applicants should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has authority to deny admission at the port of entry to any applicant who is inadmissible under INA, even if the applicant has a visa. Also, the CBP, not the consular officer, determines the period for which the bearer of a temporary work visa is authorized to remain in the United States. At the port of entry, CBP officials issue Form I-94, Record of Arrival-Departure, which notes the length of stay permitted. The decision to grant or deny a request for extension of stay, however, is made solely by the USCIS.
When to file
Petitions should be filed as soon as possible, but no more than 6 months before the proposed employment will begin or the extension of stay is required. If the petition is not submitted at least 45 days before the employment will begin, petition processing and subsequent visa issuance may not be completed before the alien's services are required or previous employment authorization ends.
Students Attending U.S. Schools
Foreign National Entering the U.S. as the Fiancé of a U.S. Citizen