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Blog>Guides>What Is a Work Visa? Do You Need One for Your Next International Job?

What Is a Work Visa? Do You Need One for Your Next International Job?

Article index


  • Find out what a work visa is
  • Learn differences in work visa requirements for various countries
  • Discover the basic process for obtaining a work visa
  • Learn when a work visa is necessary


Working internationally can be a dream come true for many people. However, the ability to accept a job offer in another country is often determined by a worker’s ability to get a work visa. Think of a work visa as legal permission to earn money from the government of your host country. There are a variety of rules and regulations that can impact the eligibility of foreign workers to obtain a visa issuance, and many kinds of visa to consider.

The speed and cost at which an interested employee can obtain a work visa can also be impacted by whether the country has a critical need for their skills and whether the employer is willing to help support the visa process. This article will discuss work visas in general, distinct kinds of visa available, and whether having a work visa is a mandatory part of accepting an offer of employment for foreign nationals.

What Is a Work Visa?

A work visa is simply a work permit authorizing the visa holder to legally earn money in the country of the visa’s issuance. A work visa isn’t the same as a visitor visa — visitor visas don’t grant the bearer the right to take a job or otherwise profit from the economy of the issuing country. To work in a foreign country, work visas are a necessary component.


There are a wide array of visa options available in every country, all of which require an application form. The application process for temporary work visas is usually completed by the applicant, while more long-term employment may call for the applicant’s prospective employer to complete the visa application. A work visa allows the bearer to live, work, and remain in the country of issuance for a designated period of time.

Depending on the visa category and the type of work done, though, many work visas can become pathways to permanent residence for eligible candidates.

How Work Visas Vary by Country

All countries use some form of a work visa to qualify foreign workers. In the United States, the work visa is known as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and differs from other standard types of non-native identification, such as a green card.

Different countries handle the visa process in different ways and many can feature unique opportunities for U.S. citizens. It’s always advisable to check specific work visa requirements as they relate to the country where you’re considering a job. There might be different rules regarding bringing along family members, and certain types of visa may come with exclusive privileges available only to permanent residents.

For those interested in working in the United States, some popular U.S. work visas are discussed below to give you an idea of what kind may best suit your employment needs:

  • H-1B visa. This type of visa offers applicants with at least a bachelor’s degree or an equivalent amount of field experience the right to work in a specialty occupation. The H-1B visa, or Free Trade Agreement (FTA) visa, is only for those with a postsecondary degree and is available even to candidates with no work experience in their fields.
  • H2-B visa. This document allows a seasonal or temporary worker the right to earn in a non-agricultural professional field.
  • I-1 visa. Members of the foreign media may obtain this visa when the press outlet for which they work in their home country has a local office in the U.S.
  • TN visa. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), eligible citizens of Canada and Mexico can enjoy the benefits of this visa for a temporary period as they work professionally in the United States. Many other countries feature visas similar to the TN visa for use by skilled workers in neighboring nations.
  • O-1 visa. Workers with an extraordinary ability or a demonstrated achievement in a field like arts, education, sciences, athletics, film, or TV may use this visa to work within their designated field of exceptional ability.

Keep in mind that these are merely a few types of visa you might get when accepting an offer of employment in the U.S. There are also visas pertaining specifically to religious workers, students, or anyone coming over to a new country as an exchange visitor. Many countries will also make special appointments if you are an agricultural worker and can sometimes offer a quick waiver of the traditional visa application if you bring professional skills that are highly in demand for that geographic area.

What’s the Typical Process for Getting a Work Visa?

Depending on your nationality, country of origin, and work prospects, the visa application process can look very different for different people. It’s wise to contact the embassy of the country you’re thinking about working in to get a sense of what is required on the visa application form. The form itself is likely to vary by the type of visa that you need, but most places offer both a paper and an online format.


You’ll generally need to provide authenticated credentials and obtain security clearance from the issuing country’s Department of Homeland Security. This generally entails sending in official copies of documentation, such as your birth certificate, work history, and educational or professional certifications. Certain visa categories likewise mandate that applicants provide approval from the Department of Labor in the form of a labor certification. Additionally, many countries require the successful completion of a visa interview.

If you are currently job hunting in the United States, you can get a feel for local visa requirements by visiting the websites of governing bodies, such as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you are abroad and thinking about connecting with a U.S. employer, stop by the nearest U.S. embassy for more information on specific visa proceedings for your area.

Do You Need a Work Visa to Work Internationally?

Yes, all countries require foreign workers to have a work visa of some kind to legally make money. Even if you are planning to live in a foreign country and work from home, a work permit will be needed. However, application requirements vary widely by nationality, length of the intended stay, professional background, and factors like the rarity or acclaim of the applicant’s skills. A person whose professional experience and background is in particularly high demand will usually experience less wait time when obtaining a work visa, as many countries have special provisions in place to fill critical-need areas.

Most countries are open and eager to make a way for all qualified international workers to come and join their workforces. This means that there tends to be plenty of resources in place for eager visa seekers to ask questions and get further help. If you’re interested in an international job, keep your job search going in the right direction using Joblist.

Find the Best International Jobs on Joblist

If you are ready to take on an international position and are trying to find a work visa that’s best for you, there’s no time to waste on your job search. When you use Joblist, you get to set the parameters for your job hunt — which means you only see jobs that you actually want.

Whether you’re a seasoned professional looking to make your next career move in a new country or have recently graduated from college, Joblist can help. Take the Joblist quiz today and be on your way to an international job that’s right for you!

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