Nonimmigrant visas are an excellent way to work, study, or visit in the U.S. on a temporary basis.
Overall, it is not as difficult to secure a nonimmigrant visa, as compared to a permanent, immigrant visa. However, refusal rates for both categories of visas have been increasing as the U.S. government has been engaging in a new practice of “extreme vetting.”
To receive a nonimmigrant visa, you typically need to apply directly at the designated closest consulate or embassy in your home country. You will need to fill out an online visa application, pay the required fees, provide a large number of supporting documents, and then attend an interview with a U.S. consular officer. In some cases, however, if you are already within the U.S., you do not need to leave to apply for a different nonimmigrant visa and can instead “change status” by filing certain forms and supporting documents directly with USCIS.
The B category of visas are reserved for temporary visitors to the U.S. for business (B-1) or pleasure (B-2). This is the most used visa category for nonimmigrants entering the U.S. It is also common to use this category for visitors who do not clearly qualify for any other category. For more information, click here.
The H-1B visa applies to those hired by a U.S. employer in a “specialty occupation,” meaning a position which requires a theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and at least bachelor’s degree or its equivalent for entry. Example of common specialties for H-1B visa as defined by regulations would be occupations in the fields of architecture engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine, education, business specialties, law, theology, and the arts. For more information, click here.
L-1 visa is for intracompany transferees employed by a foreign office and coming to the U.S. to start working for an affiliated or related U.S. office, either as an executive/manager (L-1A) or as a professional employee with specialized knowledge about the company (L-1B). Even if the foreign company does not yet have an affiliated U.S. office, an L-1 visa can still be used to send the employee to the U.S. to help establish a new one, such as a new subsidiary or a branch office. For more information, click here.
The TN visa is for citizens of Canada or Mexico who come to the U.S. as a business person to engage in business activities at a professional level in accordance with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The business activities must be in the occupation specifically listed on NAFTA, and most will require at least a bachelor’s degree in the field and/or relevant license. For the full list of the professions eligible for a TN visa as provided by NAFTA, Appendix 1603.D.1 to Annex 1603, please visit here. For more information, click here.
E-1 and E-2 visas are for nationals of a country with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation (“treaty country”) who are coming to the U.S. either to engage in international trade, invest in a U.S. business and manage it, or as an employee of such qualifying business. E-1 visa is for treaty traders and employees, and E-2 visa is for treaty investors and employees. A complete list of the current treaty countries can be found here at U.S. Department of State website. Countries can be added or removed from the list, so it is important to verify your eligibility before applying for an E-1/E-2 visa. For more information, click here.
If you are an individual with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, athletics, motion picture, or television industry and you have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements, you may qualify for an O-1 visa. These visas can be a great option for many, especially those in the fields of creative activity or endeavor usually not covered by other non-immigrant work visas, such as chefs, hair stylists, makeup artists, and coaches. Folk with O-1 visas have the ability to work in the field in which they excel in the U.S. for up to three years. For more information, click here.
The J-1 visa offers cultural and educational exchange opportunities in the U.S. through a variety of programs overseen by the U.S. State Department. The J-1 exchange visitor program is most appropriate for young leaders eager to hone their skills, strengthen their English language abilities, connect with Americans, share their culture, and get training that will help them in future careers. Exchange visitors under J-1 visas are expected to return to their home country upon completion of their program in order to share their experiences. For some J-1 visas, you are required to reside in your home country for at least two (2) years after completing your J-1 program before you can apply for a work visa or permanent residency. For more information, click here.
If you are coming to the U.S. to be employed either as a minister or in another religious vocation/occupation by a non-profit religious organization, you may qualify for an R-1 visa. R-1 visa program is intended for ministers or religious workers whose lives are dedicated to religious practices and functions, and it is not appropriate for secular members of the religion. For more information, click here.