• February 2020
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US Visas: The Ultimate List

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Visas issued by the United States allow individuals to visit the United States for a predetermined or indefinite period. The requirements or qualifications for applicants of these visas are detailed and extensive. The first step in understanding the litany of available visas is to understand their classification or categories. There are generally 3 categories of visa:

Work Visas – These visas allow individuals to visit the United States for the purposes of employment. These visas may be permanent or temporary in nature. Each of these visas has unique requirements, such as extraordinary ability, employer sponsorship, and need in the labor force.

Temporary Visas – These visas allow individuals to visit the United States for a purpose other than obtaining permanent residence status. The purpose of these visas may be to work, vacation, attend an event, receive an award, etc.

Permanent Visas – These visas allow individuals to come to the United States with the status or objective of obtaining permanent residency.

Within each of these categories there are numerous visa options. We introduce each of these visas below.


What are the Available Work Visas that are Not Permanent?

E – 1 Visa – The E-1 is known as the Treaty Trader Visa. It applies to foreign nationals of countries that have a qualifying treaty of friendship, commerce, navigation, or a similar agreement with the United States. The visa holder can develop and direct their trade with the USA if they engage in substantial trade and carry on principal trade between the United States and their country.

E – 2 Visa – The E-2 is known as the Treaty Investor Visa. Like the E-1 it is applying to applicants from countries with a qualifying treaty of friendship, commerce, navigation, or a similar agreement with the United States. The visa holder must invest a substantial amount of capital or to direct and develop the business operations of an entity in which the individual has already invested funds.

E – 3 Visa – This is a special visa for Australian foreign nationals. It allows Australian nationals to travel to the United States to perform services in a specialty occupation. The employer must petition for the worker.

H-1B Visa – The H-1B visa applies to foreign employees of a US company who have highly-specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent). It generally applies to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math fields. The employer must petition to hire the worker.

H-2A Visa – The H-2A visa allows temporary or seasonal agricultural workers from select countries to come to the US to carry out work that existing American workers are not qualified, willing, or able to take. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) publishes a list of eligible H-2A countries (a Federal Register notice). The employer (or agricultural agency) must file the petition.

H-2B Visa – The H-2B is similar to H-2A, but it applies to nonagricultural jobs. The job may be one-time, seasonal, peak load or intermittent and there must not be qualified, able, or willing U.S. workers available for the job. There is a 66,000 per year limit and the applicant must have an employment offer.

H-3 Visa – The H-3 is for foreign individuals seeking training in the US that is unavailable in the foreign national’s home country. It also applies to special education exchange visitors seeking experience educating children with physical, mental, and emotional disabilities. There is a statutory numerical cap limitation of a maximum of 50 visas issued per fiscal year. This visa does not anticipate work in the US outside of incidental work during training.

L-1 Visa – The L-1 applies to executives, managers, or individuals with specialized knowledge on assignment at a U.S. subsidiary or parent company of the foreign employer. The L-1A applies to Intracompany Transferee Executive or Manager. The L-1B applies to Intracompany Transferee Specialized Knowledge. There is no annual limit on the number of L-1 visas issued.

O-1 Visa – O-1A applies to aliens of extraordinary ability in the sciences, education, business, or athletics who have received national and/or international acclaim in their field. O-1B applies to aliens who have received national or international acclaim for their extraordinary achievements in the motion picture, television industry, or arts. The applicant must desire to work in a specified area of extraordinary ability.

O-2 Visa – The O-2 applies to qualified assistants who wish to accompany or assist a principal O-1A visa holder for a scheduled event or performance. The immigrant must be an integral part of the O-1A visa holder’s activities in the United States.

O-3 Visa- The O-3 allows family members of an O-1A applicant to petition to accompany the applicant. There is no numerical cap placed on the annual issuance of O visa categories.

P-1 Visa – The P-1A applies to internationally acclaimed foreign athletes who compete individually or as part of a team (and their essential support personnel). The P-1B applies to internationally acclaimed foreign entertainers who perform as part of a group (and similar essential personnel).

P-2 – The P-2, similarly to the P-1, applies to artists and entertainers traveling to the United States for the purpose of performing as an artist or entertainer either individually or as part of a group (and their essential support staff). There must be a government recognized reciprocal exchange program between an American organization and foreign organization. They must hold comparable skills to artists and entertainers in the US.

P-3 – The P-3 applies to artists and entertainers (and their essential support personnel) traveling to the US (individually or as a group) under a cultural program for the purpose of developing, interpreting, representing, or coaching their art form, or to teach a unique, traditional, folk, cultural, musical, theatrical art form or to participate in an artistic performance or presentation.

TN – It allows professionals from Mexico and Canada, pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement, to work in the United States.

R-1 – The R-1 allow foreigner in a religious occupation to travel to the US temporarily to work at least part time in a religious occupation The list of religious workers qualifying under R-1 is quite long.


What are Temporary Visas?

B-1 and B-2 Visas – The B-1 and B-2 apply to individuals from non-visa waiver countries visiting for business purposes, pleasure or to receive medical treatment. The B-1 is for temporary business visitors. The B-2 is for pleasure or medical treatment. This includes making social visits to relatives and friends. It also applies to amateur artists, musicians, or athletes who will receive no remuneration, and aliens coming to take part in conferences or conventions or fraternal, services, or social organizations.

F-1 – The F-1 allows foreign individuals to pursue academic studies or language training programs. It is primarily used by students entering the country for college or university studies. This visa may require interview with the student at a US consulate prior to issuance.

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) creates two nonimmigrant visa categories (J-1 and Q-1) for persons to participate in exchange visitor programs in the United States.

J-1 – The J-1 applies to foreign individuals participating in an exchange-visitor program approved by the United States. The exchange must be designed by the US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs. The exchange can be educational and cultural in nature.

Q-1- The Q-1 is for certain international cultural exchange programs approved by Department of Homeland Security, US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The program is designed to provide practical training and employment, and sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of participants home country in the United States.

K-1 – The K-1 is a fiancé(e) visa. The fiancé(e) can apply for a K-1. Once entering the US, the K-1 holder must get married within ninety days. If not, the fiancé(e) must leave the country. The US spouse must then file a petition for the fiancé(e) to obtain a visa through the US consulate in the home foreign country.

K-3 – The K-3 applies to the foreign spouses of U.S. Citizens residing outside of the United States. The K-3, unlike the K-1 visa, allows a foreign spouse and her minor children to enter the US as a nonimmigrant while petitioning for lawful permanent residence. The visa lasts for 2 years.

K-4 – The K-4 apples to minor, unmarried children of an alien spouse married to a U.S. Citizen. The children receive the K-4 visa for a two-year period (or a shorter period leading up to the day before their 21st birthday). The parents’ marriage must have occurred before the child reached 18 years of age. Once the child reaches 21 years of age, she may be eligible for adjustment of status under the Child Status Protection Act.


What are Permanent Visas?

EB-1 – The EB-1 applies to foreigners with ‘extraordinary ability’ in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. The applicant must have the subject of national or international acclaim in their field.

EB-2 – The EB-2 applies to foreign workers with advanced degrees. The applicant must demonstrate exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business that will substantially benefit the national economy, cultural, or educational interests or welfare of the U.S.

EB-3 – The EB-3 employment visa is an immigrant visa which allows foreign nationals who are skilled workers, professionals or other type of workers to enter into the U.S. to obtain permanent residency. There must be demand that US workers cannot meet.

EB-4 – The E-4 applies to special immigrants, including: Religious workers, Employees of US Government Abroad, Panama Canal Zone Employees, Physicians, Long-term International Organization Employees & Family, Service in the Armed Services, Broadcasters, Afghan/Iraqi Translators, Afghan/Iraqi Nationals Who Provided Support to US Operations.

EB-5 – The EB-5 allows an investor establishing a new commercial venture that provides permanent employment to 10 or more US employees within 2 years. There are minimum investment amounts of $500,000 and $1 million based upon the location and economic need.


LawTrades Knows Immigration Law

The moral here is that you must be intimately aware of the individual requirements of the visa under which you are applying or are present within the United States. Making a mistake in this process can have long-lasting consequences. As such, it is always advisable to work with a qualified legal professional when navigating the immigration process.

The immigration attorneys at LawTrade are experts in all matters of immigration law. They can provide you with all of the advice and guidance necessary to navigate this complex area of law.