US Visa Travel Guide

United State Travel Guide

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US Visa Type and Tips

IMMIGRANT VISAS (PERMANENT RESIDENCE OR “GREEN CARD”)

Immigrant visas grant permanent resident status (or a “Green Card”), which allows foreign nationals to permanently reside and work in the United States, as well as to travel in and out of the U.S. Generally, when an foreign national obtains a green card, his or her accompanying spouse (wife or husband) and unmarried children under age 21 also obtain green cards. Depending on the way in which permanent residence was obtained, after three to five years, a person with permanent resident status may apply for citizenship.

EMPLOYMENT-BASED VISAS

“Extraordinary” or “Exceptional” Ability Foreign nationals of exceptional or extraordinary ability in their particular field of work, outstanding professors or researchers, and members of professions holding an advanced degree may be eligible for an expedited green card process. This allows scientists, artists, physicians, university professors, researchers, musicians, etc., to obtain a green card with or without a sponsor. (See also, “O” Visa)

Alien (Employment) Labor Certification Based on unavailability of U.S. workers in the workforce, a U.S.employer may enable an alien to obtain a green card through an offer of employment. Upon approval by the Department of Labor, an immigrant petition may be filed demonstrating that the sponsor/petitioner has the ability to pay a certain prevailing wage.
Once these steps are completed, an applicant may proceed with the filing of a green card application as soon as his or her priority date becomes current.

Investor’s Visa
Qualified investors and their families may be eligible to enter the United States on this type of visa if they invest $500,000 to $1,000,000 in an existing or new business in the United States. On the basis of the business, investors may at a later time proceed with an application for permanent residence. (See also, “E” Visas)

Religious Worker
Religious ministers, priests and ordained religious persons may qualify for the green card through sponsorship by a congregation (e.g., Mosque, Church, Synagogue, etc.). (See also, “R” Visa)

Family-Based Sponsorship
United States citizens may sponsor spouses, parents, adult children and siblings (brothers or sisters) for permanent residence. Green Card holders can sponsor only spouses or unmarried children.

Diversity Visa Program
Through an annual “lottery” process, the United States randomly distributes 55,000 green cards to nationals of designated countries. Participants must have either 12 years (or more) of education or 2 years experience as a skilled worker. Winners’ spouses and children under 21 years of age also receive green cards.

NON-IMMIGRANT (TEMPORARY) VISAS

H-1B Visas
Under current laws, this work visa is valid for a maximum of six years and is generally very flexible. It allows changes of employer as well as simultaneous work for two (or more) employers, provided that each employer petitions for a separate H-1B visa. To qualify for an H-1B visa, a foreign national must have a U.S. bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, or substantial professional work experience. This visa category also requires an employer sponsor. Processing time varies from region to region, but is usually relatively quick (approximately four to six weeks). Recognized occupational groups for this visa category might include, for example: computer industry; mathematics & physical science; architectural engineering & surveying; medicine & health; life science; law & jurisprudence; commercial arts; education, museum, library & archival sciences; entertainment & recreation; administrative specialization’s; managers & officials; fashion models; etc.

TN Visas
This visa is very similar to the H-1B visa and is available only to Canadian and Mexican nationals. It is valid for one year and renewable indefinitely.

L-1 – Intra-Company Transferee Visas
Managers, executives or individuals with “highly-specialized knowledge” who are working for a company abroad may be transferred to that company’s U.S. branch or affiliate for a period of up to seven years. Non-immigrant status can be converted to a green card.

E-1/E-2 – Treaty Trader/Treaty Investor Visas
Traders and investors, their families, and qualified employees may be eligible for entry under the E category. Requirements include: national of a country that has a particular commercial treaty with the United States; “substantial” investment in a company in the U.S., or regular trading with the U.S.; principal investor or “key employee” status in this company. Visas in this category can be extended indefinitely, as long as the trading or investment activity in the U.S. continues.

J-1 – Exchange Visitor Visa
In general, this category is open to foreign students, au pairs, scholars, doctors, medical students, business and industrial trainees and others participating in U.S. government-approved programs for gaining
experience, studying or performing research. Changing status to other non-immigrant categories may be permissible, depending upon visa restrictions.

F-1 – Student Visa
Foreign nationals who have been accepted by U.S. colleges or universities and who satisfy certain other requirements may be eligible for this type of visa, which is valid for the duration of an applicant’s
course of study.

O & P Visa
The O visa is for foreign nationals who can exhibit “extraordinary ability” in the arts, sciences, education, business or athletics and those accompanying or assisting them. The P visa may be a viable alternative
for entertainers and athletes who do not meet eligibility criteria of the O visa.

B-1 – Business Visitors
In general, this type of visa is for individuals who can demonstrate a business-related reason for visiting the United States. Length of stay is for up to 1 year.

B-2 – Tourist Visas
This visa enables foreign  nationals to travel and vacation temporarily in the U.S. Such trips cannot involve employment, and the length of stay may be up to one year. Note that nationals of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Pilot Program may enter the U.S. without a visa and stay for a period of up to 90 days. However, if one enters under the Visa Waiver program, a change of status to other non-immigrant or immigrant categories is not permitted.

OTHER NON-IMMIGRANT VISAS

K-1 – Fiancee Visas
This visa is available to those planning to marry a U.S. citizen, but are currently outside of the United States. Persons granted the K-1 visa  have 90 days from the date of entry to marry; no extensions are allowed. After the marriage, a K-1 visa holder must convert the K-1 to a Green Card.

H-2B Non-Agricultural Visas
Used for nonagricultural workers coming to the U.S. to perform employment of a temporary nature. To qualify for this visa, a foreign national must be sponsored by a U. S. employer and possess requisite skills or background for the position offered. Petitioners for the H-2B must show documentation that no qualified Americans are available to fill the position. This group includes skilled workers.

H-3 Training Visas
Available to foreign nationals (generally, those who do not hold a university degree) who wish to participate in a training program not available in their country of nationality. The overall length of stay is up to 2 years. Requires a U.S. sponsor.

I – Information Media Visas
This visa for representatives of information media is generally issued for one year and renewable indefinitely.

R – Religious Worker Visas
Professionals working in a religious capacity in a “bona fide” religious organization may qualify for this visa type. To qualify, one must demonstrate that s/he has worked in a religious capacity for at least for the two years immediately prior to application.

A-1 Visa:

Foreign Government Officials: Ambassador, Public Minister, Career Diplomat or Consular Officer, or Immediate Family.

A-2 Visa:

Foreign Government Officials: Other Foreign Government Official or Employee, or Immediate Family.

A-3 Visa:

Foreign Government Officials: Attendant, Servant, or Personal Employee of A-1 or A-2, or Immediate Family.

B-1 Visa:

Temporary Visa for Business Travelers and domestic servant.

B-2 Visa:

Visitors (“tourists”): Temporary Visitor for Pleasure or Medical Treatment.

C-1 Visa:

Alien in Transit.

C-1/D Visa:

Combined Transit and Crewman Visa.

C-2 Visa:

Alien in Transit to United Nations Headquarters District Under Sec. 11.(3), (4), or (5) of the Headquarters Agreement.

C-3 Visa:

Foreign Government Official, Immediate Family, Attendant, Servant or Personal Employee, in Transit.

C-4 Visa:

Transit without Visa, see ATP

D-1 Visa:

Crewmember departing on same vessel of arrival.

D-2 Visa:

Crewmember departing by means other than vessel of arrival.

E-1 Visa:

Treaty Trader, Spouses and Children under the age of twenty-one (21).

E2 Visa:

Treaty Investor, Spouses and Children under the age of twenty-one (21).

E-2 Visa:

Employee Treaty Trader, Spouses and Children under the age of twenty-one (21).

E-3 Visa:

Special category for Australian nationals who will work in a Specialty Occupation (Profession), Spouses and Children under the age of twenty-one (21). It is called an “Australian H-1B”.

EB-5 Visa:

Green Card for investors of $1 million or $500,000 in a “Pilot Program”.

F-1 Visa:

Academic Student.

F-2 Visa:

Spouses and Children under the age of twenty-one (21).

G-1 Visa:

Principal Resident Representative of Recognized Foreign Government to International Organization, Staff, or Immediate Family.

G-2 Visa:

Other Representative of Recognized Foreign Member Government to International Organization, or Immediate Family.

G-3 Visa:

Representative of Nonrecognized Nonmember Foreign Government to International Organization, or Immediate Family.

G-4 Visa:

International Organization Officer or Employee, or Immediate Family.

G-5 Visa:

Attendant, Servant, or Personal Employee of G-1 through G-4 or Immediate Family.

H-1B1 Visa:

Professionals who come temporarily to the U.S. to perform a specialty occupation.

H-1B2 Visa:

Aliens who come temporarily to the U.S. to perform cooperative research and development projects.

H-1B3 Visa:

Aliens who come temporarily to the U.S. as a fashion model.

H-1C Visa:

Nurse coming to areas of health professional shortage.

H-2A Visa:

Aliens who come to the U.S. to perform agricultural labor or services of temporary or seasonal nature.

H-2B Visa:

Aliens who come to the U.S. not to perform agricultural labor or services but to perform work in temporary nature.

H-2R Visa:

Special type of H-2B visa which was temporarily provided as a way to bypass the quotas for the H-2B for individuals who had been previously issued H-2B status (enacted in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, 2005, P.L. 109-13, 119 Stat. 231, signed into law by the President on May 11, 2005).

H-3 Visa:

Aliens who come to the U.S. to participate in a training program.

H-4 Visa:

Spouses and children under the age of twenty-one (21).

I Visa:

Representative of Foreign Information Media, Spouses and Child.

J-1 Visa:

Exchange Visitor.

J-2 Visa:

Exchange Visitor.

K-1 Visa:

Fiance(e) of United States Citizen.

K-2 Visa:

Minor Child of Fiance(e) of U.S. Citizen.

K-3 Visa:

Spouses of a U.S. Citizen under LIFE Act.

K-4 Visa:

Children of K-3 under LIFE Act.

L-1A Visa:

Intracompany Transferee (Executive, Managerial) Continuing Employment with International Firm or Corporation.

L-1B Visa:

Intracompany Transferee (Specialized Knowledge Personnel) Continuing Employment with International Firm or Corporation.

L-2 Visa:

Spouses and Children under the age of twenty-one (21).

M-1 Visa:

Vocational Student or Other Nonacademic Student.

M-2 Visa:

Spouses and Children under the age of twenty-one (21).

N-8 Visa:

Parent of an Alien Classified SK-3 Special Immigrant.

N-9 Visa:

Children under the age of twenty-one (21) of N-8 or of an SK-1, SK-2, or SK-4 Special Immigrant.

NATO-1 Visa:

Principal Permanent Representative of Member State to NATO (including any of its Subsidiary Bodies) Resident in the U.S. and Resident Members of Official Staff; Secretary General, Assistant Secretary General, and Executive Secretary of NATO; Other Permanent NATO Officials of Similar Rank, or Immediate Family.

NATO-2 Visa:

Other Representative of member state to NATO (including any of Subsidiary Bodies) including Representatives, its Advisers and Technical Experts of Delegations, Members of Immediate Art. 3, 4 UST 1796 Family; Dependents of Member of a Force Entering in Accordance with the Provisions Status-of-Forces Agreement or in Accordance with the provisions of the Protocol on the Status of International Military Headquarters; Members of Such a Force if Issued Visas.

NATO-3 Visa:

Official Clerical Staff Accompanying Representative of Member State to NATO (including any of its Subsidiary Bodies) or Immediate Family.

NATO-4 Visa:

Official of NATO (Other Than Those Classifiable as NATO- 1) or Immediate Family.

NATO-5 Visa:

Expert, Other Than NATO Officials Classifiable Under the NATO-4, Employed in Missions on Behalf of NATO, and their Dependents.

NATO-6 Visa:

Member of a Civilian Component Accompanying a Force Entering in Accordance with the Provisions of the NATO Status-of- Forces Agreement; Member of a Civilian Component Attached to or Employed by an Allied Headquarters Under the Protocol on the Status of International Military Headquarters Set Up Pursuant to the North Atlantic Treaty; and their Dependents.

NATO-7 Visa:

Attendant, Servant, or Personal Employee of NATO-1, NATO-2, NATO-3, NATO-4, NATO-5, and NATO-6 Classes, or Immediate Family.

O-1A Visa:

Aliens possessing extraordinary abilities in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.

O-1B Visa:

Aliens of extraordinary ability in the arts or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry.

O-2 Visa:

Accompanying Alien.

O-3 Visa:

Spouses or Children under the age of twenty-one (21).

P-1 Visa:

Athletes, Entertainement Groups and Support Personnel.

P-2 Visa:

Artistic Exchange (reciprocical exchange program).

P-3 Visa:

Artistic Exchange (culturally unique program).

P-4 Visa:

Spouses and Children under the age of twenty-one (21).

Q-1 Visa:

Participant in an International Cultural Exchange Program.

Q-2 Visa:

Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program (Walsh Visas).

Q-3 Visa:

Spouses and children under the age of twenty-one (21).

R-1 Visa:

Aliens in a religious occupation.

R-2 Visa:

Spouses or Children under the age of twenty-one (21).

S-5 Visa:

Certain Aliens Supplying Critical Information Relating to a Criminal Organization or Enterprise.

S-6 Visa:

Certain Aliens Supplying Critical Information Relating to Terrorism.

S-7 Visa:

Qualified Family Member of S-5 or S-6.

T-1 Visa:

Victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons.

T-2 Visa:

Spouse of a victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons.

T-3 Visa:

Child of victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons.

T-4 Visa:

Parent of victim of a severe form of trafficking in persons (if T-1 victim if under twenty-one (21) years of age).

TN Visa:

Professional Workers under NAFTA.

TD Visa:

Spouses and children under the age of twenty-one (21).

TWOV Visa:

Transit Without Visa Program (Passenger and Crew) SUSPENDED: this program was SUSPENDED at 11:00 a.m., Saturday August 2, 2003 (EST).

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