Visiting the United States: Working in the United States

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NOTE:  It is critically important that you rely on official information when planning a visit to the United States.  Do not assume that unofficial web sites, guidebooks, or the experiences relayed by acquaintances are reliable.  Use the advice and links provided below.

Working in the United States, including teaching, touches upon education because of the frequent requirements to have an educational background of the type and level appropriate for the job you seek.  There are additional resources that may be useful in the process of looking for work, coming to the United States, and obtaining recognition of your qualifications. 

You should begin the process of planning to work in the United States at least a year ahead of when you want to arrive.


You may work in the United States if you qualify for either a temporary (non-immigrant) visa or a permanent visa (immigrant status) and if you are cleared to enter and stay in the United States.   The number of work visas issued per year is limited by U.S. federal law, and worker exchange programs are limited by the available spaces.

The U.S. Consulate or Consulates in your country have the sole authority to grant or deny visas as well as to determine the type of visa you will receive. 

U.S. Embassies and Consulates provides direct links to the websites of all U.S. Embassies and Consulates.  They can provide resources, information and advice on working in the United States as well as information on the labor market and the visa process.

Countries with Limited or No Visa Services provides information and guidance for persons wishing to come to the United States from countries where U.S. visa services are restricted, suspended, or where there is no U.S. diplomatic presence.

Exchange Programs provides information about exchange programs sponsored by the U.S. government, including programs for scholars, researchers, teachers and other professionals.


Teachers who want to work in the United States are treated as professional workers and must meet the requirements of the state education agency for certified public school educators or the requirements of a private school or district.

Refer to Professional Recognition for information about meeting U.S. teacher licensure requirements and to the rest of this section for work visa information.

Teachers may also come to the United States on temporary assignments that do not  necessarily require obtaining a U.S. teaching license.

Fulbright Teacher Exchange is a program within the well-known Fulbright Fellowship Program that provides opportunities for exchanges among U.S. and non-U.S. school teachers and administrators.

Individual U.S. states also occasionally have agreements with exchange services and foreign embassies to accept foreign teachers, especially in foreign language and cultural subject areas, for temporary assignments.  Check with individual state departments of education.

Worldwide List of Fulbright Bi-National and Fulbright Commissions provides contact information and links to all overseas Fulbright offices.

Secretary of Education's March 24, 2003 Letter to Chief State School Officers Regarding the "Highly Qualified" Teacher Requirement of ESEA sets forth U.S. Department of Education policy on implementing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act with respect to international teacher exchanges and clarifies that foreign teachers do not need U.S. certification to participate in U.S. teachers exchanges under most circumstances.  The letter provides guidance on how states can use such teachers without endangering their accountability under NCLB Highly-Qualified Teacher requirements.


Do not wait to apply for a visa until the last minute.  Make this part of your preliminary planning.

To apply for some work visas you must have a valid offer of work from a U.S. employer who is approved to sponsor visa holders.  For all work-related visas, you must meet all requirements as published by the U.S. Consulate in your country and undergo any required background checks.

Work Visas provides an overview of the categories of persons eligible to work temporarily, the applicable visas, and the visa process.

Visa Information Page provides detailed information about U.S. visas, visa policies, and related issues. 

Business Visa Center provides information on business traveler visas (B-1).

Employment Visas provides detailed information about employment-based visas (E).

Temporary Workers provides information on special visa categories for temporary migrant workers, religious workers (missionaries), and persons engaged in work covered by economic treaties.

Exchange Visitor Visas provides detailed information about the J category visas issued for participants in U.S. exchange programs, including professionals.

Labor Certification: Guest Worker Programs provides information about the analysis done by the U.S. Department of Labor to certify that employers may hire temporary or permanent workers without affecting the jobs, employment prospects or pay of U.S. workers.

US VISIT Program describes the background screening process for all visitors to the United States, including workers, and provides information on how it is implemented.

Special Registration (NSEERS) provides information on the screening process that can be instituted at the request of a U.S. consulate for citizens of designated terrorist-sponsoring countries and for other security reasons.

Visa Wait Times Database allows you to check on the current time, in days, that visa processing takes at each U.S. Embassy and Consulate.

Standardized tests, such as the TOEFL and others, may be required for your visa application depending on the applicable rules and your purpose in coming to the United States.  Go to Standarized Tests for descriptions of these tests and links to their websites.


U.S. employers and professional licensing authorities will need to evaluate your previous education.   It is likely that they will request what we call a credential evaluation, which is a statement of the comparability of your qualifications in the context of the U.S. education system.  These are usually prepared by credential evaluation services.

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