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Temporary Workers

What Is a Temporary Worker?

A temporary worker is a foreign alien who is granted admission to the United States for employment for a fixed period of time. A temporary worker is not a lawful permanent resident or a conditional resident. Still, temporary workers are permitted to live and work in the U.S. for the term of their temporary worker visa and may be able to apply for an adjustment while in the United States.

The temporary worker authorization process begins when a prospective worker submits a petition to the U.S. Center for Immigration Services (USCIS). This form, Form I-29, allows a petition to be filed on behalf of a temporary worker. By filing this petition, the employer assures the USCIS that the temporary worker has an employer waiting for them in the country. Without an approved petition, a work visa cannot be issued. 

The petition process for a temporary worker can be complex. Even if the employer has completed all necessary steps, due to the limit on yearly petitions that can be approved each year, the petition the employer submits may still be denied. However, if the petition is approved, the USCIS will send the prospective temporary worker an official Notice of Action informing them of their next steps.

Key Takeaways

  • Temporary workers are foreign nationals who have had U.S. employers petition for them to enter the U.S. for a fixed period to meet labor force needs.
  • The number of temporary workers approved is limited, and the acceptance of a temporary worker cannot disadvantage the U.S. citizens working in the same sector.
  • Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, temporary workers must fall into a specific category of laborer to be granted access.
  • If you are seeking temporary worker status to enter the U.S., an experienced Immigration Law attorney may be able to improve the outcome of your case by utilizing experience and expert knowledge.

Temporary Workers and Immigration Law

As with many other facets of immigration law, Temporary workers are governed by the Immigration and Nationality Act. The INA has a few provisions about when and how temporary workers may be admitted. First, the temporary workers cannot be used to break strikes, restrict U.S. citizens’ employment rights, or depress wages. Second, the temporary worker must be placed into a specific category of laborer.

There are 23 classes of temporary workers, with some classes featuring subclasses. Some categories have been added more recently than others. For example, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 added the H-2A and H-2B classifications. The complete list of work classifications according to the USCIS is:

  • CW-1: Transitional workers from the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • E-1: Traders and qualified employees from a nation with a trade treaty with the U.S. entering to engage in international trade.
  • E-2: Investors and qualified employees from nations with a commerce treaty with the U.S. who are entering to invest “a substantial amount of capital” in the United States.
  • E-2C: Long-term foreign investors in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • E-3: "Specialty occupation" professionals from Australia.
  • H-1B: Workers in a specialty occupation according to certain sub-classifications:
    • H-1B1 - Workers in a specialty occupation from Chile and Singapore as defined by the Free Trade Agreement.
    • H-1B2 - Workers in specialty occupations related to the Department of Defense Cooperative Research and Development projects or Co-production projects.
    • H-1B3 - Fashion models of distinguished merit and ability.
  • H-1C2: Registered nurses working in a health professional area that the U.S. Department of Labor has determined has a labor shortage.
  • H-2A: Temporary or seasonal agricultural workers.
  • H-2B: Temporary non-agricultural workers.
  • H-3: Trainees in fields that are neither medical nor academic and trainees learning about the education of disabled children.
  • I: Representatives of the foreign press, radio, film or other foreign information media.
  • L-1A: Workers transferred within their company in managerial or executive positions.
  • L-1B: Workers transferred within their company in positions requiring specialized knowledge.
  • O-1: Individuals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, motion picture, or TV production.
  • O-2: Assistants to class O-1 nonimmigrants.
  • P-1A: Internationally recognized athletes.
  • P-1B: Internationally recognized entertainers or members of internationally recognized entertainment groups.
  • P-2: An individual performer or part of a group entering to perform as part of a reciprocal exchange program.
  • P-3: Artists or entertainers entering, either an individual or group, to perform, teach, or coach under a culturally unique program.
  • Q-1: Individuals participating in an international cultural exchange program to provide practical training, employment, and sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the noncitizen's home country.
  • R-1: Workers serving a religious institution or nonprofit
  • TN: Temporary professionals from Mexico and Canada authorized by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Once a temporary worker has been petitioned for by their employer using the proper classification, and the USCIS has approved the petition, the temporary worker will have to attend a series of interviews, complete forms, pay fees, and finally request permission to enter the country at a U.S. port of entry. 

Bottom Line

If you are an immigrant looking to enter the United States by applying as a temporary worker, you will need the help of an experienced Immigration Law attorney. An Immigration Law attorney will be able to advise you and advocate on your behalf in order to get you the best possible outcome for your case.

Using their legal expertise, trial tactics, and expert witnesses, your Immigration Law attorney can explore your alternative options to deportation as well as present your case in the most compelling light possible and deftly navigate the complex processes of immigration bureaucracy as well as the obscure functions of immigration court.

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