Work Visas for the Hospitality Industry

In this video, attorney Jacob J. Sapochnick discusses the most popular visa options for hospitality workers. For more information just keep on watching.


The top visas used by Hotels and Restaurants to bring foreign workers to the United States are the J-1, H-3, H-2B, L-1, E-2, TN, and H-1B visas.  Whether transferring employees between international properties or employing management trainees, immigration is an integral part of the hospitality industry. The appropriate visa type will largely depend upon the foreign worker’s qualifications and the type of position the worker will be occupying.

The J-1 visa

The J-1 visa is a cultural exchange program between the United States and foreign countries bringing foreign workers to the United States. There are 2 types of J-1 visas. The first category is a trainee J-1 visa. To qualify the trainee must have at least 5 years of experience working in the position or a Bachelor’s degree or equivalent, with at least 1 year of experience. Workers who come to the United States on a J-1 trainee visa, may work in the United States for a hotel or restaurant for a period of 18 months. The J-1 trainee visa allows the foreign worker to develop their skills, gain experience, and return to their home countries taking those skills with them. The second category is for interns, who are in school in their home country or have recently graduated, and have less than 1 year of experience. Interns may come to the United States for a 1 year period to train in a hotel or restaurant. The work and travel category of the J-1 allows foreign workers to come to the United States for up to 4 months during the summer time. The J-1 visa is generally an easy visa to obtain. It takes approximately 6 weeks for this visa to get approved by the Department of State.

The H-3 visa

The H-3 visa is also a trainee visa available for a period of up to 2 years. This is a very good option for foreign workers who are in the United States on a J-1 visa and are seeking an extension to continue working in their hospitality industry. With the H-3 visa the employer must prove that the training that the foreign worker will receive in the United States it not available in the foreign worker’s home country. A college degree is not required, although some experience is necessary to qualify for this visa.

The Q-1 visa

The Q-1 visa is also a trainee visa that is based on cultural exchange between countries. This is a good option for all hospitality fields (chefs, waiters, servers, etc)

The H-1B visa

The H-1B visa is a specialty occupation lottery visa for professionals. This visa requires the applicant to have at least bachelor’s degree or equivalent, or qualifying experience within the specialty occupation. H-1B visas are limited to 65,000 visas per fiscal year. Foreign workers with advanced degree are exempt from the cap, but only the first 20,000 petitions received by USCIS will benefit from the exemption. Foreign workers who have a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management, business, culinary arts, marketing and will work in positions such as lodging managers, front desk managers, marketing, and public relations positions can qualify for the H-1B visa. The H-1B visa is a 3-year visa with extensions allowed. The H-1B visa can also lead to permanent residence, if the employer decides to retain and sponsor the foreign worker.

The TN visa

The TN visa is available for Canadian and Mexican hospitality workers coming to the United States to work in hospitality positions. A college degree is required or 5 years experience in management. This is a good option for foreign workers who will work as hotel managers or restaurant managers.

The E-2 visa

The E-2 is a great option for workers who want to be self-employed. The E-2 visa requires an investment in a new or existing commercial enterprise. This is a good option for people who want to set up a restaurant, a coffee shop, or want to become partners in a hotel.

The L visa

The L visa is most suitable for hospitality workers of chain hotels or restaurants. This visa allows managers to be transferred from one location to another. This option is best for hospitality workers of large hotels and restaurants, or smaller hotels and restaurants who are interesting in establishing branch offices in the United States.

H-2B visa

The H-2B visa is a seasonal visa for mass amount of hospitality workers. The employer must establish that the employment will be of a seasonal nature only. This visa can only be applied for twice a year in April or October. This visa is also subject to a cap of 66,000 visas per year.

To learn more about these visa types please visit our website.

For legal questions please contact our office for a first consultation.

Remember to follow us on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and Instagram.