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Navigating the Path to Nonimmigrant Workers: Form I-129 Explained What is Form I-129?

Form I-129 is a document used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, for various immigration-related purposes. It is officially titled the “Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker.” Employers in the United States use this form to petition for permission to bring foreign nationals to the U.S. temporarily for employment in specific nonimmigrant visa categories.

Some of the nonimmigrant visa categories for which Form I-129 can be used include:

  • H-1B: For temporary workers in specialty occupations.
  • L-1: For intracompany transferees who work for a company with offices in the U.S. and abroad.
  • O-1: For individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in their field.
  • TN: For Canadian and Mexican professionals under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
  • E-1 and E-2: For treaty traders and treaty investors.
  • P-1, P-2, and P-3: For athletes, artists, and entertainers.
  • R-1: For religious workers.
  • Q-1: For international cultural exchange visitors.
  • And other specific nonimmigrant categories.

The employer typically submits Form I-129 on behalf of the foreign national employee, and it is used to request approval for the employee’s temporary stay and employment in the United States. The specific requirements and supporting documentation vary depending on the visa category for which the petition is filed.

How to file Form I-129?

Filing Form I-129, the “Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker,” with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) involves several steps. The specific process may vary depending on the type of nonimmigrant visa category you are applying for, but here are the general steps for filing Form I-129:

  • Identify the Appropriate Nonimmigrant Visa Category: Determine the correct nonimmigrant visa category that applies to your situation. Each class has specific requirements and documentation, so it’s essential to choose the right one.
  • Complete Form I-129: Download the most recent version of Form I-129 from the USCIS website. Complete the form by providing all required information, including details about the employer, the foreign national worker, the job offer, and supporting documents. Review the instructions carefully to ensure accurate completion.
  • Gather Supporting Documents: Collect all necessary supporting documents, which may include:
    • Job offer letter from the U.S. employer.
    • Documentation showing the foreign worker’s qualifications.
    • Supporting evidence for the specific visa category (e.g., educational credentials, work experience, contracts, etc.).
    • Filing fees (check USCIS for current fee amounts).
    • Any additional documents are required for the specific visa category.
  • Check Filing Fee: Verify the filing fee for Form I-129, which may change over time. Pay the fee using the method prescribed by USCIS, such as a check or money order. Ensure that the payment is made out to the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
  • Submit the Application: Mail the completed Form I-129 and supporting documents, along with the filing fee, to the appropriate USCIS service center. The specific service center depends on the visa category and your location. Double-check the USCIS website or the instructions for the form to determine the correct address.
  • Wait for USCIS Processing: USCIS will review your petition. Processing times can vary, so it’s essential to monitor the USCIS website for updates on processing times and case status.
  • Attend an Interview (if required): In some cases, USCIS may request an interview with the employer and the foreign national worker. Be prepared to provide additional information and documentation during the interview.
  • Receive a Decision: USCIS will decide on the petition. If approved, USCIS will issue an Approval Notice (Form I-797). If denied, USCIS will provide a written explanation for the denial.
  • Travel to the U.S. (if applicable): If the foreign national worker is outside the United States, they may need to apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy. The approved Form I-129 petition is usually a required document for this visa application.

Form I-129 checklist of required documents.

The documents required for Form I-129, the “Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker,” can vary depending on the nonimmigrant visa category for which you are applying. However, here is a general checklist of documents that are commonly required when filing Form I-129:

  • Completed Form I-129:
    • Ensure that all sections of the form are filled out accurately and completely. Use the most recent version of the state, which can be downloaded from the USCIS website.
  • Filing Fee:
    • Check the USCIS website for the current filing fee for Form I-129. Submit the price with the application using the payment method specified by USCIS (e.g., check or money order made out to the “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”).
  • Employer Information:
    • Provide details about the U.S. employer, including the employer’s name, address, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).
  • Job Offer Letter:
    • Include a formal job offer letter from the U.S. employer. This letter should detail the job position, responsibilities, salary, and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Supporting Documentation:
    • Include all necessary documents specific to the nonimmigrant visa category. For example, this may include:
      • Educational credentials (e.g., diplomas, transcripts).
      • Work experience documentation (e.g., letters of reference, resumes).
      • Contracts or agreements, if applicable.
      • Evidence of any required licenses or certifications.
      • Proof of compliance with specific visa category requirements (e.g., O-1 extraordinary ability documentation).
      • Verify the qualifying relationship between the U.S. and foreign employer for L-1 intracompany transferee petitions.
      • Supporting documents for TN visa categories (e.g., a job offer letter, a copy of a professional degree or certificate).
      • Contracts and itineraries for H-1B petitions filed by consulting companies.
      • Documentation demonstrating the religious worker’s qualifications and the spiritual nature of the organization for R-1 petitions.
  • Labor Condition Application (LCA) (for H-1B and E-3 visas):
    • If applying for an H-1B or E-3 visa, the LCA certified by the U.S. Department of Labor is typically required.
  • Any Required Translations:
    • If any supporting documents are not in English, you must include certified translations.
  • Additional Supporting Evidence:
    • Depending on the specific visa category and circumstances, you may need to provide additional evidence to demonstrate eligibility.
  • G-28 (Notice of Entry of Appearance as Attorney):
    • If an attorney represents the petitioner, include a completed Form G-28 to designate the attorney officially.
  • Any Specific Forms or Supplements:
    • Some visa categories may require additional forms or supplements. For example, the H Supplement for H-1B and H-1B1 visas or the O Supplement for O visas.
  • Proof of Fee Payment:
    • If someone else pays the filing fee on behalf of the petitioner, include a copy of the fee receipt or proof of payment.