U.S. Visa Types
There are two types of visas that the United States government issues:
- Non-immigrant visas to tourists and temporary business visitors for a limited duration
- Immigrant visas which permit holders to stay in the United States permanently, work and eventually apply for citizenship
There are many types of non-immigrant visas and while some are straightforward, others may require substantial documentation. Most non-immigrant visas are for work purposes and usually require an offer of employment from a U.S. business. The immigration laws may have some restrictions, such as a labor certification to ensure that no American workers are presently able to fill the role of the job.
Other categories of non-immigrant visas include student, family and tourist visas. Each visa category is further divided into numerous subcategories. Our offices, located in New York City and Poughkeepsie, are available to provide advice to businesses and individuals throughout the United States and other countries including the Caribbean regarding the types of visas available and the requirements to apply.
Non-Immigrant Visa Categories:
B-1/B-2 Visitors Visa – Non-immigrant visas are issued to tourists (temporary visitors for pleasure) and business visitors (people engaging in commercial transactions in the U.S. but not employment). Visitors are issued a multiple purpose business/tourist visas (B-1/B-2 category). Both B-1 and B-2 visa are valid for one year and are renewable in six-month increments. Holders of B-1 or B-2 visas may not accept employment in the U.S. However, an alien on a B-1 may do work for a foreign company located in the U.S.
E-1 Treaty Traders Visa (Traders, spouse and children) -The alien must prove that the trader: a) is a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation and b) carries on substantial/principal trade between the United States and the treaty country which qualified the trader for E-1 classification.
E-2 Treaty Investor Via (Investor, spouse and children) – To qualify for E-2 classification, the treaty investor must be a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation, have invested, or be actively in the process of investing a substantial amount of capital in a bona fide enterprise in the United States, and be seeking to enter the United States solely to develop and to direct the investment enterprise. This is established by showing at least 50 percent ownership of the enterprise or possession of operational control through a managerial position or other corporate device.
Student Visas (F-1 Student Visa; F-2 for Spouses and Children and F-3 for Mexican and Canadian commuter students) – The F-1 Visa (Academic Student) allows individuals to enter the United States as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. The student must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate, and the school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students.
M-1 The M-1 Visa (Vocational Student or non-academic program) – This category includes students in vocational or other non-academic programs, other than language training.
J Visa – Persons coming to the U.S. in an approved exchange program may be eligible for the J-1 Exchange Visitor’s visa. J-1 programs often cover students, short-term scholars, business trainees, teachers, professors and research scholars, specialists, international visitors, government visitors, camp counselors, and Au Pairs. In some cases, participation in a J-1 program will be coupled with the requirement that the beneficiary spend at least two years outside of the U.S. before being permitted to switch to a different non-immigrant visa or to permanent residency.
With certain restrictions, F and J visa holders may work while in the U.S. F-1 students may not work off-campus during the first academic year but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. There are various programs available for F-1 students to seek off-campus employment after the first academic year. The M visa holder’s ability to work however is more limited as they may engage in practical training only after they have completed their studies.
H-1B Work Visa for Specialty Occupations (including fashion models) – U.S. businesses use the H-1B visa program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, including, but not limited to: scientists, engineers, or computer programmers.
In order to qualify as a specialty occupation, the applicant must prove theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge, have at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, and demonstrate that employers can pay the prevailing wage. Occupations which are considered specialty occupations include architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, and the arts.
One of the advantages of the H-1B category is that the employer does not need to demonstrate that there is a shortage of qualified U.S. workers and, consequently, a labor certification process can be avoided. Aside from documenting that the position offered is in a specialty occupation and that the employee has the appropriate credentials for the job, the employer need only verify that the H-1B worker is being paid the prevailing wage for the work being performed and that employment of a foreign worker is not harming conditions for U.S. workers.
When the employer obtains the wage information, a Form ETA 9035 (Labor Condition Application – LCA) must be submitted to the US Department of Labor. On this form, the employer must submit the wage to be paid, the prevailing wage, and must make certain attestations.
Q-1 International Cultural Exchange Visitor Visas – An individual may be eligible for a Q-1 non-immigrant visa if he or she is seeking to participate in an international cultural exchange program. The Q non-immigrant exchange program is for the purpose of providing practical training and employment, and to share the history, culture, and traditions of other countries with the United States.
K-1 Fiancee Visas – A fiance(e) of a U.S. citizen is eligible for a non-immigrant visa conditioned on the conclusion of the marriage within 90 days.
L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visas – L-1 visas are available to executives, managers and specialized knowledge employees transferring to their employer’s U.S. affiliate. Executives and managers holding L-1 visas may be eligible for permanent residency without the need for a labor certification.
O-1 Extraordinary Ability Worker Visas – The O-1 category is set aside for the individual who possesses extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and has been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements.
P-1 Artists and Athletes Visas – This category applies to those coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.
R-1 Religious Worker Visas – Religious workers may be eligible for an R-1 visa if they are coming to the United States temporarily to be employed as a minister or in another religious vocation or occupation at least part time (average of at least 20 hours per week).
TN STATUS UNDER THE NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT
A special category has been set up for nationals of Canada and Mexico under the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The TN classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level. Among the types of professionals who are eligible to seek admission as TN non-immigrants are accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers.
If you would like to discuss a matter related to qualifying under the TN classification, you can contact us at 718-324-0404 in New York City, 845-849-9201 in Poughkeepsie, NY, use the form at the right, or email us at info@DironRuttyLLC.com.