U.S. Immigration Options for Veterinarians


The U.S. immigration system offers pathways for obtaining temporary “nonimmigrant” visas and permanent “immigrant” visas, commonly known as “green cards.” These visas are categorized by letters and numbers corresponding to sections of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA). Some visas are created through treaties with the applicant’s nationality, while others are available to citizens of any country. Most business immigration options for professionals, including veterinarians, require sponsorship by a U.S. company, which can be owned by the applicant in the case of entrepreneur visas. The procedures for obtaining immigration status depend on the applicant’s citizenship(s), current location whether in the U.S. or another country, U.S. immigration status, and appropriate U.S. visa type, involving U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at Ports of Entry.

Below are the visa options specifically customized for veterinarians and other similar professional positions in veterinary medicine and related occupations such as Animal Breeder, Animal Scientist, Dairy Scientist, Poultry Scientist, and Zoologist.


Nonimmigrant Visa Options for Temporary Residence

International veterinarians often begin their time in the U.S. with a nonimmigrant visa, as these are generally easier and quicker to obtain if qualifications are met. Many professionals choose to extend these visas during their time in the U.S. without pursuing permanent residency or citizenship. These visas allow individuals to live and work in the U.S. for the sponsoring company, with renewals typically required every 1-4 years depending upon the visa type and country visa reciprocity agreements, contingent on maintaining the approved activity and proving the qualification criteria with each extension.

Nonimmigrant visa options are usually better for professionals with a Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as veterinary medicine, where the position actually requires that degree. For instance, roles like Veterinary Technologists and Technicians typically do not require a Bachelor’s degree, whereas Veterinarians generally do.

Here are common U.S. nonimmigrant visa categories for veterinarians and veterinary professionals, with hyperlinks to articles about each visa type with more information:

  • H-1B Specialty Occupation Visa: The H-1B visa is the standard professional visa, not requiring a treaty with the worker’s home country. Veterinary positions that require a Bachelor’s degree can typically qualify. Although valid for 3 years and renewable, only 85,000 new H-1B visas are available annually, with a lottery each March for October 1 start dates. Exceptions include universities, university affiliate companies, and certain research institutions.
  • H-1B1 Visa for Singaporean and Chilean Professionals: Similar to the H-1B in requirements, but with different filing procedures and no annual lottery, making it a readily available option.
  • E-3 Visa for Australian Professionals: Nearly identical to the H-1B1 visa with minor differences.
  • Trade NAFTA (TN) Visa for Canadian & Mexican Professionals: Under the USMCA/CUSMA/T-MEC (formerly NAFTA), this visa covers a limited list of occupations, including Veterinarian but also Animal Breeders, Animal Scientists, Dairy Scientist, Poultry Scientist, and Zoologists which may be relevant. This category is relatively accessible, especially for Canadians who can apply at the Port of Entry with CBP. TN visas can be approved before obtaining U.S. licensure.
  • O-1 Visa for Extraordinary Ability in the Sciences
  • E-2 Treaty Investor Visa: For citizens of countries with an E-2 visa treaty, this category is flexible for entrepreneurial veterinarians wishing to pursue ventures within an approved business plan. This visa type can be used to sponsor owners, managers, and special skills employees.
  • L-1 Intracompany Transferee Visa: For U.S. expansions of international companies, this visa allows for the transfer of managers, executives, and specialized knowledge employees, potentially including veterinary professionals.


Immigrant Visas for Permanent Residence (Green Cards)

Immigrant visa categories often take years to qualify for and obtain, with no status conferred until the process concludes, but resulting in a green card valid for 10 years and renewable indefinitely.

Common immigrant visa categories for veterinarians and veterinary professionals, with hyperlinks to each pathway, include:


U.S. Citizenship through Naturalization

After five years of permanent residency, during which the majority of time is spent in the U.S., lawful permanent residents can apply for U.S. citizenship. Any time spent in nonimmigrant status does not count towards these five years.


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.