Are you ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime to the United States, but feeling overwhelmed by the U.S. visa process?
You’re not alone! With so many types of visas available, it can feel like navigating a maze.
This guide will break down the most common types of U.S. visas and help you find your way to the right one for your situation.
An immigrant visa is issued to a foreign citizen who intends to live and work permanently in the U.S.
Family-Based Visa – The Family Reuniter
The family-based visa is for individuals with a close relative who is a US citizen or permanent resident. This type of visa allows you to come to the United States and apply for a green card so that you can reunite with your loved ones.
There are two types of family-based immigrant visas:
Immediate Relative. These visas are based on a close family relationship with a US citizen, such as a spouse, child, or parent. The number of immigrants in these categories is not limited.
Family Preference. These visas are for specific, more distant, family relationships with a US citizen and some specified relationships with a lawful permanent resident. The number of immigrants in these categories is limited each fiscal year.
Employment-Based U.S. Visa
The employment-based visa is for individuals who have been offered a job in the United States.
Some highly skilled professionals can get US visas without a job offer, so long as they are entering the US to continue work in the fields in which they have extraordinary abilities.
Immigrant investors are also classified under this type of visa.
Diversity U.S. Visa – The Lucky Winner
The diversity visa, also known as the green card lottery, is a program that allows individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States to apply for a green card.
It’s a game of luck, where a selected few will be able to call the United States their new permanent home.
Nonimmigrant Visas – The Temporary Passport
The most common type of visa for international travelers is the nonimmigrant visa.
Think of it as a temporary passport, allowing you to enter the United States for a specific purpose such as tourism, business, or study.
B-1/B-2 U.S. Visa – The Tourist’s Delight
The B-1/B-2 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals who plan to enter the United States for business or pleasure.
This type of visa is perfect for a holiday getaway, allowing you to stay for up to six months, and can be extended for an additional six months.
This visa is also used by visitors who are seeking medical treatment in the US.
Citizens of certain countries in the Visa Waiver Program are allowed to enter the US for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.
F-1 U.S. Visa – The Scholar’s Passport
The F-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for students who plan to attend a college or university in the US.
This type of visa is the scholar’s passport, allowing you to stay for the duration of your program, plus 60 days for practical training.
H2: J-1 U.S. Visa – The Explorer
The J-1 visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals participating in exchange visitor programs, such as internships, traineeships, or research programs.
This type of visa is perfect for the cultural explorer, allowing you to stay for the duration of your program, plus 30 days for travel.
Other types of nonimmigrant visas fit persons in specific situations that don’t fit into the categories listed above such as foreign diplomats, cross-border transit, business visits, and many more in the table below.
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Categories of non-immigrant U.S. visas
|Athletes, amateur, and professional (competing for prize money only)||B-1|
|Athletes, artists, entertainers||P|
|Australian worker – professional specialty||E-3|
|Border Crossing Card: Mexico||BCC|
|Crewmembers (serving aboard a sea vessel or aircraft in the United States||D|
|Diplomats and foreign government officials||A|
|Domestic employees or nannies (must be accompanying a foreign national employer)||B-1|
|Employees of a designated international organization, and NATO||G1-G5, NATO|
|Exchange visitors – au pairs||J-1|
|Exchange visitors – children (under age 21) or spouse of a J-1 holder||J-2|
|Exchange visitors – professors, scholars, teachers||J-1|
|Exchange visitors – international cultural||J, Q|
|Foreign military personnel stationed in the United States||A-2, NATO1-6|
|Foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics||O-1|
|Free Trade Agreement (FTA) professionals: Chile||H-1B1|
|Free Trade Agreement (FTA) professionals: Singapore||H-1B1|
|Information media representatives (media, journalists)||I|
|Medical treatment, visitors for||B-2|
|NAFTA professional workers: Mexico, Canada||TN/TD|
|Nurses traveling to areas short of healthcare professionals||H-1C|
|Specialty occupations in fields requiring highly specialized knowledge||H-1B|
|Students – academic and language students||F-1|
|Student dependents – dependent of an F-1 holder||F-2|
|Students – vocational||M-1|
|Student dependents – dependent of an M-1 holder||M-2|
|Temporary workers – seasonal agricultural||H-2A|
|Temporary workers – nonagricultural||H-2B|
|Tourism, vacation, pleasure visitors||B-2|
|Training in a program not primarily for employment||H-3|
|Transiting the United States||C|
|Victims of human trafficking||T-1|
|Visa renewals in the United States – A, G, and NATO||NATO1-6|
Table of Categories of non-immigrant U.S. visas
The type of visa you need depends on the purpose of your trip and your plans for the future.
Each type of visa has its own set of requirements, so be sure to research the specific requirements for the visa you are applying for.
The visa application process can take several months, so be sure to start early.
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