Different Visa Types
There are several visas that a foreign national may apply for to be lawfully admitted into the United States, either temporarily or permanently. A few of the commonly utilized visa categories are outlined below. This information is meant as an overview and is not in any way a detailed analysis of United States immigration law.
B-1/B-2 Tourist/Visitor Visas
Available to all visitors coming to the U.S for business or pleasure. B-1 business visitor visas are for a short duration and must not involve local employment. Nationals of certain countries may be eligible to visit the US for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.
E-1/E-2 Treaty and Investor Visas
Investors and traders and their employees may receive visas to carry on their businesses in the US if their home country has a commercial treaty with the US conferring visa eligibility.
F-1 and M-1 Student Visas
Persons seeking to pursue a full course of study at a school in the United States may be eligible for a visa for the course of their study plus, in some cases, a period for practical training in their field of study.
H-1B Specialty Occupation (Professionals) Visas
Professional workers with at least a bachelor's degree (or its equivalent work experience) may be eligible for a non-immigrant visa if their employers can demonstrate that they are to be paid at least the prevailing wage for the position.
J-1 and Q-1 Exchange Visitor Visas
Persons coming to the US in an approved exchange program may be eligible for the J-1 Exchange Visitor's visa. J-1 programs often cover students, short-term scholars, business trainees, teachers, professors and research scholars, specialists, international visitors, government visitors, camp counselors and au pairs. In some cases, participation in a J-1 program will be coupled with the requirement that the beneficiary spend at least two years outside of the US before being permitted to switch to a different nonimmigrant visa or to permanent residency. We regularly handle the application process for seeking a waiver to the home residency requirement that applies to many J-1 visa holders.
K-1 Fiance(e) Visas
A Fiance(e) of a US citizen is eligible for a non-immigrant visa conditioned on the conclusion of the marriage within 90 days.
L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visas
L-1 visas are available to executives, mangers and specialized knowledge employees transferring to their employer's U.S. affiliate. Executives and managers holding L-1 visas may be eligible for permanent residency without the need to a labor certification.
O-1 Extraordinary Ability Worker Visas
The O-1 category is set aside for foreign nationals with extraordinary ability. This includes entertainers, athletes, scientists, and businesspersons.
P-1 Artists and Athletes Visas
This category covers athletes, artists and entertainers.
TC and TN NAFTA and US-Canada Free Trade Agreement Visas
A special visa category has been set up for nationals of Canada and Mexico under the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement.
Permanent Residency Visas ("Green Cards")
Family Sponsored Immigration Visas
U.S. citizens may petition for spouses, parents, children and siblings. Permanent residents may petition for spouses and children.
Employer-Sponsored Immigrant Visas:
EB-1 Foreign Nationals of Extraordinary Ability, Outstanding Professors and Researchers and Multinational Executives and Managers
Individuals in this category can petition for permanent residency without having to go through the time consuming labor certification process.
EB-2 Workers with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability in the Sciences, Arts or Business
Visa holders in this category normally must have a job offer and the potential employer must complete the labor certification process. The labor certification involves a testing of the job market to demonstrate that the potential visa holder is not taking a job away from a U.S. worker. In cases where an individual can show that his entry is in the national interest, the job offer and labor certification requirements can be waived.
EB-3 Skilled Workers and Professionals
Visa holders in this category normally must have a job offer and the potential employer must complete the labor certification process.
EB-4 Special Immigrant Visas for Religious Workers
Ministers of religion are eligible for permanent residency.
EB-5 Investor/Employment Creation Visas
Under the 1990 Immigration Act, Congress has set aside up to 10,000 visas per year for alien investors in new commercial enterprises who create employment for ten individuals. There are two groups of investors under the program - those who invest at least $500,000 in "targeted employment areas" (rural areas or areas experiencing unemployment of at least 150% of the national average rate) and those who invest $1,000,000 anywhere else. No fewer than 3,000 of the annual allotment of visas must go to targeted employment areas.
DV-1 Visas (the "Green Card Lottery")
55,000 visas are annually allotted in a random drawing to individuals from nations underrepresented in the total immigrant pool.
Refugee and Asylum Applications
Persons with a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion may be eligible to apply for asylum or refugee status in the U.S.
Temporary Protected Status
Granted to individuals from selected countries which the U.S. currently recognizes as unsafe. Allows individuals to remain in the U.S. for the duration of their status. Subject to a periodic INS review. Does not lead to a visa.
Allows certain Mexican and Canadian workers to avoid the visa application process by proceeding directly to a U.S. port of entry and presenting the necessary documents.
A green card, also known as an I-551 form (formerly I-151), entitles you to live and work legally inside the U.S. as a permanent resident. It provides you with proof of name and identity to enable you to apply for a driver's license, take out loans, establish a bank account, etc.
Travel Limitations and Citizenship:
As a green card holder, you may travel outside the U.S. and return as long as you maintain their primary residence in the U.S. If you wish to become a U.S. citizen, you must normally wait at least 5 years from the date you receive your green card, unless you are married to a U.S. citizen. More than six months of travel outside the U.S. may erase the time counted toward your eligibility for citizenship.
A green card is renewable after ten years.