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Boston: Visa and Immigration Legislation

Moving to Boston has long been synonymous with a new beginning in the New World. Of course, the reasons for moving have changed, but for many expats, their impending move to Boston still marks the beginning of a new life. Get the most relevant information on your future home on InterNations!
Boston has many beautiful neighborhoods — but moving there comes at a price.

A Multitude of Options

As you might already know, immigration laws in the United States are quite extensive, and there are a multitude of different visa subcategories for different purposes, lengths of stay, and occupations the applicant is allowed to fill. For very detailed information on all things immigration, please consult the website of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

While planning your future expat life in the heart of New England, we highly recommend that you take the time to carefully read the information from USCIS. However, below you’ll find a brief overview of the most relevant and popular of the many US visa categories, which is intended to give you a general idea of things. Remember, applying for the incorrect visa usually causes nothing but problems in the US, so come prepared!

Non-Immigrant Visas: Which One’s for You?

The USCIS have two distinct visa categories. If your stay in the country is limited to a predetermined period of time, and you have no intention of permanently settling in the USA, you require a nonimmigrant visa. If you are issued a visa from this category, you are not only restricted in terms of the duration of your stay, but also in terms of its purpose, i.e. your future occupation in Boston.

Specialty Occupations (H-1B)

Category H-1B applies to people working in a specialty occupation, which is broadly defined as occupations that require at least a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent thereof. Notable exceptions are fashion models and people involved in Department of Defense research, who are also included in this category. On the website of the US Citizen and Immigration Services, you can find a full definition of specialty occupations.

The H-1B visa is valid for a period of three years. However, there is an annual cap on the maximum number of H-1B visas issued per calendar year; currently it’s 65,000.

Intracompany Transfers (L-1A)

If you have worked in a management level position with your company for at least one year within the three years prior to your transfer to the USA, you will be able to apply for an L-1A visa. If the purpose of your overseas assignment is to set up an office for your company, your visa will be valid for one year; if you are sent to occupy a position in an existing office, your visa will be valid for three years.

Expats with Special Abilities (O-1)

If you are among the best and most highly acclaimed professionals in your occupation (especially in the fields of science, business, sports, art, film, and others), you may enter and work in the USA with an O-1 visa. As with most other visas, the validity of the O-1 is limited to three years.

Treaty Traders and Employees (E-1)

The E-1 visa is one of the most popular with expats. Visa category E-1 allows for nationals of countries with which the US maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation.

There are two main reasons for its popularity. First, an E-1 visa can be extended an unlimited number of times after the initial two years have passed. Second, family members can join the visa holder without having to apply for a visa of their own. If you are a national of one of the countries on this list, it would be worthwhile to look into this category.

Immigrant Visas: The Famous Green Card Lottery

Apart from the nonimmigrant visas, you of course also have the possibility of relocating to Boston on the basis of an immigrant visa. The most notable and well-known type is undoubtedly the Green Card, which is awarded in an annual lottery.

The Diversity Visa Program, as is the official name, makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available for applicants from countries with low rates of immigration to the US. The selection of these applicants is drawn randomly once a year. For further information on immigrant visas, please read our article on moving to the USA or refer directly to the USCIS website.

As you are certainly well aware of by now, immigration to the US is not a simple matter. Our guides on visas and immigration can help you make sense of it all.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 


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