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Non-Immigrant Visas-An Overview

For those seeking temporary admission to the United States there are a variety of visas available. However, each visa has its own unique qualification system, duration and potential pathway to permanent admission. Generally, there are six types of non-immigrant visas: (1) tourism; (2) educational; (3) special or family-related; (4) work of business; (5) governmental or quasi-governmental; and (6) miscellaneous. These visas are outlined below.


B-2-A tourist visa. Note that residents of some countries may enter the United States for tourist purposes under the Visa Waiver Program. Residents of countries that are not governed by the Visa Waiver Program must apply for B-2 visa if they wish to visit for tourism purposes. When evaluating whether to grant a B-2 visa, consular officials must be convinced that the person coming to the United States will not engage in work; is coming for a short period of time with a clear purpose; and unmistakably will depart at the end of the visit.


F-1-The most common of the education study visas, designated for persons coming to engage in academic study in a full-time program at an approved institution. The F-1 visa statute prohibits persons seeking a student visa from studying at a public institution unless she will attend the school for less than 12 months and shows that she has paid the school the full unsubsidized per capita cost of the education. An applicant will have to show that she has sufficient funds to pay for the education without having to work, and that he or she has sufficient preparation to complete the course of study.

J-1-These visas are for persons coming to the United States as students, researchers, professors, nonacademic specialists, physicians, international visitors, camp counselors, au pairs, or summer students in travel/work programs. Persons on a J-1 visa may be subject to a two-year foreign-residency requirements before changing visa status or obtaining permanent residency. This requirements if triggered if (1) the person’s program was financed in whole or in part by the US government, or by the government of the person’s nationality or country of last residence; (2) if the person was engaged in a field that was designated at the time of their entry as in short supply or needed in the person’s home country; 0r (3) if the person obtained medical training after January 10, 1977.

M-1-This is a visa program for vocational students engaged in a full-time program at a recognized nonacademic institution.

Special and Family-Related Visas

K Visas-K-1 visas are for fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens for the purpose of getting married within 90 days of admission. K-2 visas are for minor children of K-1 visa holders. K-3 and K-4 visas are issued to spouses of U.S. citizens and their minor children for a two-year period while the pending immigration petition is processed.

V Visas-These visas are for those married to a permanent residents, or the children of permanent residents, for whom a petition was filed on their behalf prior to December 21, 2000.

Work or Business

B-1-The B-1 Visa is for those traveling to the United States for business other than “work.” The individual must not intend to abandon their foreign residence. Examples of reasons for a B-1 visa would be to negotiate a business deal or attend a conference.

E visas-These visas are for treaty traders and treaty investors. They allow persons to stay indefinitely in the United States under a treaty of commerce between the United States and their home country. Treaty investors are persons developing an enterprise in which they have invested a substantial amount of capital.

H-1B-This visa allows persons engaged in “specialty occupations” to come to the United States to work. A “specialty occupation” is defined as a job that requires “the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge” and a bachelor’s degree or higher. There is an annual quota on H1-B visas. The employer, in order to sponsor H1-B visas, must obtain a certification of a labor condition application from the Department of Labor.

H1-C-This visa is for professional nurses working in health care professional shortage areas.

H2-A-This visa is temporary or seasonal agricultural workers. Non-agricultural workers are admitted under the H-2B visa. H-2B visas are subject to quotas and require Department of Labor approval.

H-3-This visa is for persons who are receiving instruction or training in any field, as well as training in a purely industrial establishment, with the exception of graduate medical training or education. The H-3 visa is only available if the equivalent training is not available in the home country, the foreign national will not be placed in a position where U.S. workers are regularly employed, and the training will help the foreign national pursue a career outside of the United States.

I visas-These visas are for representatives of foreign media.

L visas-These visas are designed for intracompany transfers of persons who serve a company in a managerial or executive capacity, or who possess specialized knowledge. L-2 visas permit the admission of spouses and children of L-1 visa holders.

O visas-These are for individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The O1-AB visas are for those in motion picture or TV production.

P visas-These visas for athletes and entertainers, particularly those that perform as part of a group.

Q visas-Q visas are for persons participating in an international cultural exchange program approved for the purpose of providing employment, practical training, and the sharing of history, culture and traditions of the person’s country of nationality.

R visas-These visas are for ministers and persons working in a professional capacity for a religious organization.

TN visas-TN visas are for Canadian and Mexican nationals who seek “temporary entry as a business person to engage in business activities at a professional level.”

Law Enforcement-Related Visas

S visas-S visas are for individuals who have important and reliable information concerning a criminal organization or enterprise.

T visas-These visas cover those that have been subjects of severe human trafficking.

U visas-These visas are for individual who have been victims of serious violent crimes and have been helpful, currently are helpful, or likely to be helpful to a federal, state, or local law enforcement official.

Governmental or Quasi-Governmental

A visas-These are for individuals with diplomatic immunity.

G visas-These are for officials, employees, and dependents of international organizations that are quasi-governmental, like the UN or World Bank.

This guide was only meant as an introduction to the types of non-immigrant visas. If you have further questions, feel free to contact us for a free consultation with a U.S. immigration attorney.

The above is general information only and not to be relied upon as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship nor should it be relied upon as advice in lieu of consultation with an attorney.

Categories: Immigration Law

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