Types of Non-Immigrant Visas
B1 /B2 – Visitor Visa
B1 – business visitor visas are for brief visits normally for a limited period of 30 days subject to maximum of 3 months. B2 – Visitor for pleasure, which allows people to come to the U.S., for pleasure for a minimum period of 30 days, and subject to maximum of 6 months, with possible extension of stay up to one year. Both B-1/B-2 visas may be changed to any other non immigrant category except to F-1 student visa since they cannot attend school without prior approval by USCIS. Citizens of certain participating countries are allowed to visit the U.S. for a period up to 90 days without a visa, which is called Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which cannot be extended or changed to any other non-immigrant category.
E1-Treaty Traders,E2-Treaty Investor
Investors/traders and their employees may receive visas to carry on their business in the US, if the home country has a commercial treaty with the United States conferring visa eligibility. Unfortunately citizens of India are not eligible for this visa, since India does not have an investment treaty agreement with US. But citizens of Pakistan are eligible for both E1 and E-2 visas, provided they have invested substantial amount in USA in any business. Both E-1 and E-2 visas are granted for a period of 1 year, and should be renewed every year by providing evidence that the business is being conducted, and the same is making more than a marginal profit. Spouses and children under 21 are also eligible for same visa to accompany the principal alien. Spouses are eligible for work permit as long as the principal beneficiary maintains the E1/E2 status, and the marital relationship continues.
Persons enrolling in a full course of study at an educational institution approved by the US Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) in the United States may be eligible for a visa for the completion of the course of their study. Their stay as evidenced by I-94 is for the duration of status (D/S) and one year each of Optional Practical Training (OPT) in their field of study is allowed after Bachelor Degree, Masters Degree and even after Doctoral Degree before returning to their home country subject to a grace period of 60 days. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 can enter US on F-2 visas as dependents for the period granted to the principal alien. They are not allowed to work, but children may attend schools. In certain circumstances after one year of full time study, F-1s are eligible for work permit for up to 20 hours per week.
H-1B Specialty Occupation
Professionals with at least a US bachelor’s degree or its equivalent foreign education or progressive years of work experience are eligible for H-1B nonimmigrant visa if the position requires such a degree as a minimum requirement to be eligible for such positions. Their employers should demonstrate that they will pay at least the prevailing wage for the job, and they should have approved Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor (DLO) before filing a petition with the USCIS for approval of H-1B petition. The initial period of employment will be for 3 years, which can be extended to another 3 years to a total of 6 years. One year extensions after 6 years is possible under certain circumstances provided a Labor Certification Application with DLO pending for more than a year or three year extension if I-140 has been approved and priority dates are not current due to per country limits.
H-1C Registered Nurses
Registered Nurses who have obtained all the qualifying CGFNS certifications or having the license in the State where they are to be employed, is eligible to work for such employers who has an unexpired attestation with the Attorney General, can work in US, provided such US employer obtains approval from the USCIS. There are only 500 visas available under this category for each year. Remember the H-1A visas for the registered nurses are no longer available after its sunset date of September 30, 1995. Registered Nurses are not eligible for H-1B specialty occupation visas, since the minimum requirement to practice, as a Registered Nurse is not US Bachelor Degree or its foreign equivalent, unless the position requires minimum US bachelor degree in a specialty occupation. Some States in United States allow only Nurses with Bachelors degree to practice as a Nurse, in such States, they are allowed to enter on H1-B visas.
H-2A Agricultural Labor
Aliens may enter US to perform agricultural jobs for short period of time of less than a year, for which the US employer should file temporary labor certification with the DLO, and file petition with the USCIS for approval, after which the aliens should appear for consular interview to obtain the visa in order to enter US. Such visas are subject to a maximum of three years.
H-2B Other Temporary Labor
Aliens can enter US to perform any non agricultural jobs for short period of time of less than a year, for which the US employer should file temporary labor certification with the DLO, and file petition with the USCIS for approval, after which the aliens should appear for consular interview to obtain the visa in order to enter US. Such visas are subject to a maximum of three years.
Aliens can enter US for training purposes at locations in US, who can provide such training to enhance their job skills, so that they can return to their country and use such newly acquired skills in their jobs. The training should not be designed to provide productive employment in US. There are only about 3,000 visas available in this category every year, and it is very difficult to obtain these types of visas. The US facility providing training should obtain approval from USCIS before a visa can be issued.
I-Representative of Foreign News Media
Aliens who is a bona fide representative of foreign press, radio, film, or other foreign information media, who seeks to enter US solely to engage in such vocation, and the spouse and children of such representatives if accompanying or following to join can enter as dependents on this type of visa.
J-12 Exchange Visitors
Aliens entering U.S. through an approved exchange program is eligible for the J-1 Exchange Visitor’s visa. These are students, scholars, job trainees, faculty, professors and research scholars, specialists, medical residents, government visitors, etc. Sometimes, a J-1 program will require that the beneficiary spend at least two years outside of the U.S. before being permitted to switch to L-1.
K-1 Fiancée of U.S Citizen
A Fiancée of a U.S. citizen is eligible for a nonimmigrant visa to enter US solely for the purpose of marrying only that U. S citizen within 90 days of entry to the U.S. If not married within 90 days of entry the K-1 visa holder becomes out of status and accrues unlawful presence in U. S, and is not eligible to change to any other non immigrant category or to marry another U. S citizen and to apply for permanent residence while in U. S. The US citizen and fiancée should have met with each other within the last 2 years of prior to filing of the petition, unless the religious custom prevents such meeting each other. Unmarried children under 21 are eligible for K-2 visa, and may enter US along with K-1 visa holder, and apply for permanent resident status along with K-1 visa holder provided the K-2 visa holder should receive permanent resident status before reaching 21 years.
K-3 Visa for Spouse and K-4 Visa for Children Under 21 of US Citizen
The spouses and unmarried children under 21 of US citizen can enter US on K-3/K-4 visas respectively, provided the US citizen has filed an immigrant petition for the spouse, and the same is pending for approval. The US citizen should file a non immigrant visa petition with the USCIS and the same should be approved, before the spouse, and children can apply for a visa at a US consulate to enter US on K-3/K-4 visas. Once they enter US on K-3/K-4 visas they are eligible to apply for permanent residence provided separate immigrant petitions are also filed for the children entered on K-4 visas. Under the new rules of the Department of State, the NVC will not process any K-3/K-4 visas if the I-130 is already approved by the USCIS. USCIS normally approves both the I-130 and K-3 petition at the same time and hence K-3/K-4 visas are not a viable option at this time.
L-1 A & L-1 B Intra Company Transferee
L-1 visas are available to executives, managers and L-1B visas are for persons of specialized knowledge to work for their employer’s U.S. affiliate companies or subsidiaries. Executives and managers holding L-1A visas may be eligible for permanent residency without the need for a labor certification. Persons of specialized knowledge need to go through labor certification process in order gain permanent residency in US. Spouses can enter on L-2 visas and are eligible to work in USA . The maximum period of stay allowed under this category is 7 years. L-2 dependent spouses are allowed to work provided they apply for work permit with the USCIS.
Persons enrolling in a full course of study at a vocational institution approved by the Bureau of Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) in the United States for non academic study may be eligible for a visa for the period of their study, which is normally issued for 1 year, which can be extended by USCIS for a maximum of 3 years. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 can enter US on M-2 visas as dependents for the period granted to the principal M-1 alien.
01,02 Extraordinary Ability
The O-1 category is for foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, athletics, education, or business. O-2 is for those aliens who seeks to enter US temporarily and solely for the purpose of accompanying and assisting the artists, athletes. Both O-1/O-2 can enter US after the petition filed by the US employer, or sponsor is approved by the USCIS, and issuance of visa by the US consulate.
P1,P2,P3 Athletes and Group Entertainers
For athletes, artists, and entertainers, either individually or as a group, can enter US provided their US sponsor should file petition with the USCIS, and it should be approved, before a visa can be issued by the consulate.
Q- International Cultural Exchange Program
Any alien intends to come to US for temporary period of time not to exceed 15 months, as participant in an international cultural exchange program approved by the Attorney General for the purpose of providing practical training, employment, and sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the country of the alien’s nationality can obtain this visa and enter US. The spouse and children under 21 of any such alien if accompanying or following to join the alien can also obtain visa for the same period of time as the principal alien.
R-Religious Vocation or Profession
Religious workers include ordained clergy and those who have taken religious vows, as well as religious professionals such as choir directors, teachers of religion, and so forth. The petitioner should be a non-profit religious group with 501(c) tax exemption, and the alien should be a member of the same religious group for a period of two years immediately preceding the date of filing the petition by the employer with the USCIS. The maximum period of stay will be five years and the initial period of admission is only for 30 months with an extension for another 30 months. The spouse and unmarried children under 21 can enter on R-2 visas as dependents and not allowed to work.
S-Critical Information Visa
Any alien who can provide critical reliable information concerning a criminal or terrorist organization or enterprise, and willing to supply such information to the US authorities, and whose presence in US is necessary for the successful investigation and prosecution, is eligible for this visa. The S visa is made available to aliens who cooperate with the government in criminal prosecutions, and is valid for three years. These visas are commonly known as “Snitch Visas”.
T-Visa for Victims of Trafficking
The new law allows 5,000 T visas each year to victims of severe trafficking in the United States, for eligible victims to remain in the U.S. for three years. The victims will be granted temporary work permits and are eligible for the same kinds of public assistance which is given to refugees. The T visa, can eventually lead to permanent residency.
TN-Trade NAFTA Professionals
A special visa category for nationals of Canada / Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement. There is no need to file any petitions for approval by USCIS before applying for TN visa at a US consulate. Only those categories of professionals in the schedule with the required licenses are eligible to apply for TN visa. It will be granted for a period of one year, which can be extended every year, as long as the alien works for the US Company.
U-Visa for Victims of Violent Crimes
This new visa is eligible for aliens who cooperate with law enforcement authorities, if they have “suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of having been a victim of criminal activity” , which includes “trafficking,” “being held hostage” and “felonious assault,” all of which were involved in this case.
V-Visa for Spouses and Children under 21 of LPR
Spouse and unmarried children under 21 of Permanent Residents, on whose behalf an immigrant petition was filed on or before 12/21/2000, and the same is pending for approval for more than 3 years, or if approved, waiting for the availability of the visa for more than 3 years, are eligible to apply for the Visa at a US consulate, or if they are physically present in US they can apply with the USCIS for V visa and work permit. Children are eligible to extend the status even if they reach 21 years under the new rules.