From Tourist to Employee: Changing Your Status to a US Work Visa


Welcome to the blog of I.S. Law Firm, your trusted source for expert guidance on U.S. immigration law. In this article, we will explore the process of changing your status from a tourist visa to a work visa in the United States. If you are currently in the U.S. on a tourist visa and wish to pursue employment opportunities, this guide will provide you with valuable information to navigate the complex immigration system.

First, let’s clarify the difference between a tourist visa (B-2 visa) and a work visa. A tourist visa allows individuals to visit the U.S. for leisure, tourism, or medical treatment but does not permit employment. On the other hand, a work visa enables foreign nationals to work in the U.S. temporarily in a specialized occupation.

Changing your status from a tourist visa to a work visa involves a series of steps and requirements. It is crucial to follow the process diligently to ensure a smooth transition. Here are the key steps involved:

  1. Identify the Appropriate Work Visa Category:
    Consult an experienced immigration attorney to determine the most suitable work visa category based on your skills, qualifications, and the job offer you have received. The following are some of the commonly sought-after work visa categories:
    H-1B Visa: For professionals in specialty occupations.
    L-1 Visa: For intracompany transferees.
    E-2 Visa: For investors from treaty countries.
    O-1 Visa: For individuals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
    J-1 Visa: For exchange visitors in specific programs, including internships and research scholar positions.
    T.N. Visa: For Canadian and Mexican professionals under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
  2. Secure a Job Offer:
    To change your status to a work visa, you must obtain a job offer from a U.S. employer. The employer must be willing to sponsor you by filing a petition on your behalf. 
  3. Employer Files a Petition:
    Your prospective employer must file Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This petition serves as a request to employ you and demonstrates that you meet the requirements of the specific work visa category. 
  4. Supporting Documentation:
    Along with the petition, you and your employer must submit supporting documentation, such as educational qualifications, employment history, and proof of specialized skills or expertise. 
  5. Approval of Petition:
    If your petition is approved, you can proceed with the change of status process. If it is denied, you may explore alternative options or address any issues raised by USCIS to rectify the situation. 
  6. Application for Change of Status:
    Once the petition is approved, you can apply for a change of status using Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. This form allows you to request a change from your current B-2 visa status to the desired work visa status. 
  7. Supporting Documentation for Change of Status Application:
    When submitting your application, including all required supporting documents, such as a copy of your Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, passport, the employer’s petition approval notice, financial documentation, and any additional forms or evidence specific to your work visa category. 
  8. Biometrics Appointment and Interview:
    In some cases, USCIS may require you to attend a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, photographs, and a digital signature. Additionally, you may be called for an interview to assess the legitimacy of your application. 
  9. Decision on Change of Status Application:
    After reviewing your application, USCIS will make a decision regarding your change of status request. If approved, you will receive a new Form I-94 reflecting your updated status. If denied, you may need to explore other options or consult an immigration attorney to address any concerns USCIS raises.

Changing your status from a tourist visa to a work visa is a multi-step process that requires careful preparation, attention to detail, and compliance with immigration regulations. To navigate the complexities of U.S. immigration law successfully, it is advisable to seek professional guidance. At I.S. Law Firm, we have a team of experienced immigration attorneys who can provide personalized assistance tailored to your specific circumstances. Schedule a consultation with us today by visiting this link: Schedule a Consultation – I.S. Law Firm, PLLC. Our dedicated team is ready to assist you throughout the change of status process and help you achieve your career goals in the United States.