What are Non-Immigrant Visas?

Foreign nationals seek entry into the United States for a variety of reasons. Those who come because they want to live here are referred to as immigrants, while those who come because they want to vacation or spend time with family, seek medical treatment, do business, work, or study are non-immigrants. Both of these categories of visitors require a visa to be admitted through customs, but those who do not intend to stay for a long period of time are issued non-immigrant visas.

The United States has created nineteen different categories of nonimmigrant visas to address each of the potential reasons for foreign nationals to seek entry for a limited period of time. These categories are:

  • A – Career Diplomat
  • B – Temporary visitors for business and pleasure
  • C – Aliens in transit
  • D – Crewmembers
  • E – Treaty traders and investors
  • F – Students
  • G – International organization representatives
  • H – Temporary workers
  • I – Foreign Media
  • M – Students in non-academic institutions
  • N – Parents and children of special immigrants
  • O – Aliens with extraordinary abilities
  • P – Entertainers
  • Q – Cultural exchange program participants
  • R – Religious workers
  • TN – NAFTA professionals

There is also a special purpose category that is specifically designated to allow NATO personnel entry into the United States.

Though most nonimmigrant visas are provided for people who are visiting the country either for short periods of time or for business, the country has also established a visa waiver program that allows nonimmigrants from specific countries to enter the U.S. for no more than 90 days without obtaining a visa. The majority of these are either B-1 (tourist) or B-2 (business) visas that are valid for a year and can be renewed in six-month increments.

Another category of nonimmigrant visa that in demand has been the H-temporary worker visa, which is issued to those who work in what are considered specialty occupations for which there are not enough American citizens who either qualify or are willing to do the work. The country limits the number of these visas that are issued each year.

Finally, when students enter the United States to seek education at an established academic high school, college, university, seminary, conservatory or language school they are issued an F-1 visa (unless they are part of an exchange program, in which case the J visa is appropriate). Those who plan to attend either a nonacademic or vocational program enter using an M visa.

Immigration is a complex area of law for which you need the assistance of an experienced, knowledgeable attorney. For help with applying for a nonimmigrant visa or any other area of immigration law, contact us today to set up a time for us to speak.