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The United States Visa: An Overview

The United States is considered the land of opportunity. It’s a nation founded by foreigners. Practically anyone you meet, anywhere in the country, is a descendant of an immigrant. It’s no wonder that the United States has a well-established, if not complicated, process for foreign travelers to visit or move to the country.

Whether you intend to immigrate to the United States or just visit while on vacation, there’s a good chance you’ll need a visa. But what exactly is a visa and how do you know if you need one? That’s where the immigration attorneys at Saland Law can help by providing answers for all your visa questions.

What’s the Purpose of the Visa?

A visa is permission to enter and/or stay in a country. The visa serves as a way for a host country to document the visitor and verify the visitor’s country or origin. Foreigners who wish to enter the United States will need a visa to enter, unless they meet the requirements of an exemption of waiver.

Do I Need a Visa?

Determining whether a visa is required to enter the United States will depend on two main factors: your home country and your purpose for visiting. There are two primary methods for entering the United States without a visa.

The most common of these methods is through the Visa Waiver Program. The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens or nationals from a specific set of countries to visit the United States without a visa, but only in limited circumstances, such as for tourism, business purposes or to receive medical treatment. Additionally, the visit may last no longer than 90 days.

The second manner is through exemption, but is only applicable to citizens of Canada and Bermuda.

What Type of Visa Do I Need if I Want to Visit the United States?

The type of visa you need will largely depend on your reason for entering the country. Most visas can be classified into one of four categories:

  1. Temporary Visit: This type of visa is for foreigners who wish to visit the United States, whether they are tourists, traveling on business or seeking medical treatment. Visitor visas are usually designated as a type B visa.

  2. To Work: Individuals who wish to visit the United States for work purposes, such as temporary employment, will need an employment visa. Employment visas will usually be designated as an E, TN/TD, E, I, J, H. L. O. P or Q visa.

  3. To study: Students who would like to study for school in the United States will need a student visa. Student visas are often designed as an F, J or M visa, but a B visa may be needed instead.

  4. To Immigrate: Foreigners who wish to become a permanent part of the United States will need an immigration visa. Specific types of immigration visas available include Family visas, Intercountry Adoption visas, Employment visas, Special Immigrant visas and Diversity visas.

How Many Visas Are There?

The United States has dozens of different types of visas, which can be divided into two major types: immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas. Some of the different specific types of visas available are listed below.

Immigrant Visas

  • IR1, CR1, K-1 and K-3 visas: For the spouse, fiancé or fiancée of US citizens
  • IR3, IR4, IH3 and IH4 visas: Needed for the adoption of children from other countries by US citizens
  • IR2, IR5, F1, F3, F4, F2A, F2B and CR2 visas: Required for certain relatives of US citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents
  • S, E1, E2, E3, EW3, C5, I5, R5 and T5 visas: Individuals who are immigrating to the United States for employment purposes
  • SI and SQ visa: For Iraqi and Afghan workers who work as translators/interpreters on behalf of the US government.
  • SR and SD visas: For religious workers
  • SB visa: For a returning resident
  • DV visa: For those requiring a diversity immigrant visa

Nonimmigrant Visas

  • B-1 visa: For individuals entering the country to earn money as a nanny, domestic employee or athlete, as well as those entering the United States for business purposes
  • B-2 visa: For individuals entering the United States to obtain medical treatment
  • J visa: For exchange visitors (au pair), teachers, scholars and physicians
  • L visa: For intra-company transferees
  • TN-TD: For Mexican and Canadian workers employed through NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement)
  • E-3 visa: For entering as an Australian professional specialty
  • A visa: For a government official or diplomat
  • C visa: For individuals traveling to another country through the United States
  • D visa: For crew members
  • E visa: For treaty traders and investors
  • F and M visas: For students
  • BCC visa: For those who will cross the Mexican border into the United States
  • P visa: For performing artists and athletes
  • R visa: For religious workers
  • CW-1: For a transitional worker (CNMI-only)
  • A-2, G1, G2, G3, G4, G5 and NATO 1, NATO 2, NATO 3, NATO 4, NATO 5 and NATO 6 visas: For employees of NATO or other specified international organization, including military personnel
  • Q visa: For international cultural exchange visitors
  • H-1B1 visa: For Free Trade Agreement Professionals
  • H-1B: For employees in fields requiring a high level of specialized information and knowledge
  • H-2A and H-2B: For temporary workers, such agricultural or other seasonal workers
  • H-3: For those seeking special training, but not for employment purposes
  • U and T visas: For victims of criminal activity
  • V visa: For the immediate family members of Lawful Permanent Residents
Have a Question about a Visa?

Don’t wait. Don’t waste another minute. Life in the United States is sadly not getting any easier for foreign nationals. Secure your legal status and the life you want to live in America.

Call the New York immigration lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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