U.S. Immigration Options for Architects


Certain architects can qualify for nonimmigrant visas in the short-term and mid-term and have multiple green card pathways to permanent residency as well.


Temporary Nonimmigrant Visas

The default professional work visa is the H-1B Specialty Occupation visa, which generally requires an annual lottery absent an exception and would require the architect to be licensed in the U.S. as a prerequisite to qualification.

H-1B1 and E-3 visas are nearly identical in requirements to the H-1B visa category, except provide a readily available pathway without the annual lottery and are only available to citizens of Singapore, Chile, and Australia.

For professionals from Canada and Mexico, “architect” is an occupation listed in the U.S. – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA, updated NAFTA) which would allow qualified applicants to apply for a Trade NAFTA (TN) visa. Licensure is a post-entry requirement, so the application may occur before obtaining licensure.

E-1 Treaty Investor and E-2 Treaty Investor companies can sponsor supervisors and essential skills employees, which can include architects. It’s important that licensure is obtained as a practical matter, as this visa category does not contain the explicit exception that licensure is a post-entry requirement like with TN visas.

Architects who are being transferred from a company outside of the United States to come work in the United States may qualify for an L-1 Intracompany Transferee visa.

If none of the above present viable, readily available options, then the J-1 Cultural Exchange visa may be a potential option for trainees for a training program up to 18 months in duration, perhaps while an H-1B visa is being pursued under the lottery as a mid-term strategy and one of the permanent residency strategies outlined below is being pursued as a long-term strategy.


Green Card Pathways

The most common pathway to permanent residency based upon employment requires a formal test of the labor market through the U.S. Department of Labor as a prerequisite, which is known as PERM Labor Certification. After this process, the employer can sponsor the employee for permanent residency through the filing of an immigrant petition on the basis of which the employee can apply for either an immigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad or a green permanent resident card as an adjustment of status from within the U.S. Until the end, this process does not confer any immigration status or ability to remain in the United States in the meantime while pending, so it’s important to pursue and maintain a temporary nonimmigrant visa if the current/prospective employee needs to be working in the United States.

Other potential immigrant visa or green card pathways could be  EB-2 National Interest Waiver for especially qualified applicants.


The above is informational and not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an experienced business immigration attorney on your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with any U.S. immigration strategy.