U.S. Immigration Options for Managers


Business immigration options to sponsor managers may be divided between the temporary “nonimmigrant” visa options and the permanent “immigrant” green card sponsorship categories.


Temporary Nonimmigrant Visa Strategies for Managers

Chief Executives, General and Operations Managers, and managers of specific specialties such as Marketing Managers or Engineering Managers are occupations which commonly qualify for the default nonimmigrant professional visa category, the H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa.

However, absent an exception from the annual H-1B visa lottery, a U.S. employer may need to review other options as outlined below.

Citizens of Singapore and Chile through the H-1B1 nonimmigrant visa and of Australia through the E-3 nonimmigrant visa have a nearly identical U.S. professional visa option to the H-1B, except without the annual lottery and with the ability to apply at a Consulate instead of USCIS. The examples mentioned above would be the same for the H-1B1 and E-3.

For Canadian and Mexican professionals, the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA, formerly NAFTA) allows for qualified applicants to apply for a Trade NAFTA (TN) nonimmigrant visa to work in the United States in an occupation which is listed in the USMCA. Unlike H-1B, H-1B1, and E-3, which broadly allows for qualification for any job that ordinarily requires a Bachelor’s degree in a specific field, only the occupations listed in the USMCA can be used for application purposes. “Hotel Manager” is the only managerial occupation explicitly listed, but professional managers who are in the same occupation as listed in the USMCA may qualify through emphasis of the professional nature of their role. As an example using one of the listed occupations, a “Lawyer” who manages other lawyers often maintains the primary job duties of a lawyer despite taking on managerial responsibilities.

Although less common, companies which qualify as E-1 Treaty Trader or E-2 Treaty Investor companies (50%+ owned by citizens of a treaty country) can readily sponsor managers who have citizenship in that treaty country as E-1 or E-2 nonimmigrants. Additionally, the L-1 Intracompany Transferee visa may be viable for managers who have one year of tenure with an affiliate outside of the United States.

For management training programs up to 18 months, the J-1 Cultural Exchange nonimmigrant visa could be a good option if the above are not viable pathways.


Permanent Immigrant Visa “Green Card” Strategies for Managers

The most common pathway to permanent residency in the United States through employment starts with a PERM Labor Certification process with the U.S. Department of Labor, which currently takes about 2 years, after which the U.S. employer may file an immigrant petition on the basis of which the manager can apply for permanent residency through an immigrant visa application at a U.S. Consulate abroad or through an adjustment of status and issuance of a green card in the United States, which takes another 1-2 years. The employment based preference categories for this type of petition are referred to as EB-2 and EB-3 immigrant visas.

For managers who transferred to the U.S. company from an affiliate outside of the United States, it’s important to review qualification for the EB-1C Multinational Manager immigrant visa category, as employment-based first preference (EB-1) often is not subject to an immigrant visa backlog and can be obtained must faster as the two-year PERM Labor Certification step mentioned above is not required.


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.