Learn About the Variety of Work Visa Options for Architects

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There are a variety of options for obtaining a US work visa for architects.

Even if you are not a licensed architect, you could still qualify for a work visa in the United States in the field of architecture.

In order to qualify for a work visa, you must have sponsorship from an employer in the US, unless you are seeking to manage and direct your own architecture related firm via the E-2 visa.

As mentioned above, you do not necessarily need to be licensed to obtain a work visa to work in an architecture related role in the US. However, it is important to note that if you are not licensed and you will be working for an architecture firm, you will need to work under the direct supervision of a licensed architect.

Another important point to note is that the laws governing the field of architecture in the United States are controlled by the individual states. The importance of this is that there may be titles that cannot be used for an unlicensed architect.

For example, in New York State, “Architect” is a protected title – only a person licensed in New York can call themselves an “Architect”. For architect related roles in New York State, where the foreign individual is not licensed, we usually recommend the following titles: “Intern Architect”, “Architectural Intern”, or “Architectural Drafter”.

Any title that could mislead one into thinking the individual is licensed would be unlawful in New York State. Bottom line, you should review the law of the state where you will be working prior to moving forward with your work visa application.

For a more thorough overview of the various United States work visa options for Architects, please see the following:

H-1B Visa

An H-1B visa is a temporary work visa for workers who are coming to the United States to work in a specialty occupation role for a US company.

A specialty occupation role is one that normally requires a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent for entry into the position. H-1B visas are good for up to 3 years, and may be extended for up to 6 years. The H-1B visa is a great work visa to use for an architect or architect related role since there is not much room to dispute that architects or architecture related roles require at a minimum a bachelor’s degree in architecture. The one downside to the H-1B visa is that it is has an annual cap, which often fills very quickly.

For more info on the H-1B visa, please see the following: https://www.lightmanimmigration.com/h1b-visa/.

H-1B1 Visa for Chilean and Singaporean nationals

The H-1B1 visa is almost identical to the H-1B, in that it’s for specialty occupation roles, except that it is exclusively for citizens of Chile and Singapore. Although it is limited to annual cap of 1,400 for Chile and 5,400 for Singapore, it has never been filled.

For more info on the H-1B1 visa, please see the following: https://www.lightmanimmigration.com/h-1b1-visa-need-know/.

E-3 Visa for Australians

Like, the H-1B1 and H-1B, the E-3 visa is for specialty occupation roles. It is very similar to the above options, except that it is only for citizens of Australia. Like the H-1B and H-1B1, there is an annual cap, but, similar to the H-1B1, it has never filled.

For more info on the E-3 visa, please see the following: https://www.lightmanimmigration.com/e-3-visa/.

O-1 visa for individuals of extraordinary ability

The O-1 visa, by contrast, is set aside for foreign employees who demonstrate extraordinary talent and aptitude in the arts, sciences, athletics, or business. While an O-1 visa contains many advantages, it is more difficult to obtain.

A successful candidate for an O-1 visa typically would:

  1. be a leading participant in distinguished productions/events relating to architecture,
  2. have performed a critical role for distinguished architectural organizations/establishments, and
  3. have received significant recognition from renowned members of the field.

This recognition can come from anybody in the world, as long as they are related to the architectural field. Reviewing officers will be asking questions such as: Was your role in the projects were leading or critical? Was the client distinguished or widely known? Had the applicable projects gained attention in the media?

Click here for more info on the O-1.

TN Visa for Canadians or Mexicans

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a Canadian or Mexican citizen who seeks temporary entry into the United States to work for a US company may do so with a TN Visa. The applicant seeking classification as a TN must demonstrate business activity at a professional level in one of the enumerated professions or occupations, which includes Architect.

Under the law governing TN Visa’s, to qualify for a TN as an architect, the Canadian or Mexican individuals is required to have a Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or a state/provincial architectural license.

For more info on the TN visa, please see the following link: https://www.lightmanimmigration.com/tn-visa/.

J-1 visa for trainees or interns

The J-1 visa is a visa that one would use to engage in an internship or training program in the United States.

Although shorter in duration and less flexible than the previously mentioned work visas, in that it can only be used for a training program or internship, it is a good option for a foreign national looking to gain experience in the United States.

For more info on the J-1, please see Common J-1 Visa Questions and J-1 Visa – Did You Know?.

E-2 Investor Visa

The E-2 Investor Visa is a visa used by individuals who want to manage and direct a business in the United States. One of the major requirements of the visa is that there must be a treaty of trade between the United States and the country of citizenship of the foreign national. Not all countries have a treaty with the US. If there is, and all other requirements are met, the E-2 can be a great visa for an architect to use to start his/her own architecture related business in the United States. The E-2 can also be used to employ employees of the same nationality. For more info on the E-2, please see the following: https://www.lightmanimmigration.com/e-2-visa/.

L-1 Visa – Company Transferee Visa

The L-1 visa allows managers, executives or specialized employees to transfer from a foreign entity to a US entity. In order to qualify, the individual must have spent at least 1 of the previous 3 years working as a manager, executive or specialized employee outside of the US for a foreign company, and they must be coming to the US to work in the same role for the foreign company’s parent, affiliate, subsidiary, or branch. It’s not an overly common visa for an architect, but it could work in the right scenario.

For more info on the L-1, please see the following: https://www.lightmanimmigration.com/l-1-visa/.

For more information on work visas for architects, contact Lightman Law Firm at (212) 643-0985 or submit a consultation request online. Also browse our homepage menu for a wide array of information related to work visas. 

Lightman Law Firm was recently honored as New York’s 2014 Immigration Law Firm of the Year by Acquisition International. Additionally, founding attorney, Douglas Lightman, was named a “Rising Star” by SuperLawyers.com. Lightman Law Firm also carries a 4.9 rating on Google Reviews.