A nonimmigrant visa allows citizens of other countries to temporarily visit the United States for a specific purpose. The length of time that an alien can stay in the United States depends in part upon the type of nonimmigrant visa that person holds. Aliens must apply for a visa at a United States consulate or embassy abroad. Upon arrival at a United States port of entry, a United States Customs and Border Patrol Officer usually inspects and grants the alien permission to enter and stay a certain period of time in the United States by endorsing a card called an arrival/departure record, or Form I-94. This authorized period of stay may exceed the validity date of the alien's visa. In certain circumstances, these individuals can extend their period of stay or change their status. Nationals of some countries are not required to obtain tourist or business (B-1/B-2) visas to travel to the United States for stays of 90 days or less; but such individuals cannot extend their stay or change their status while still in the United States.

Here are some common Nonimmigrant Visa Categories:

  • B-1 / B-2 Visitor – Visitors for Business or Visitor for Pleasure – Alien having a foreign residence which he has no intention of abandoning and who is visiting the United States temporarily. May be granted an initial stay of up to 6 months with the possibility of an extension.
  • E-1 Treaty Trader, Spouse and Children included – Permits one to conduct substantial trade between the United States and his/her home country where one is a national or a citizen. Trade includes services, technology, banking, insurance, transportation, communications, engineering, management consulting, etc. Not all countries have an E-1 treaty with the United States.
  • E-2 Treaty Investor, Spouse and Children included – Permits investor and/or certain employees of a qualifying entity to direct and develop the operations of an enterprise where the investor or entity has invested a substantial amount of capital. Such investment may not be made solely to earn a living. Not all countries have an E-2 treaty with the United States.
  • F-1 Student – Permits one to pursue a full course of study in university, college, high school, academic institution or language program in the United States. Must initially have sufficient financial support to pay fees and stay without the necessity of working; special rules permit work on or off campus under certain circumstances. Spouse and children can apply for F-2 status.
  • H-1B Specialty Worker – Permits certain persons in specialty occupations to work when the person possesses the credentials necessary to enter those specialty occupations. A specialty occupation requires theoretical and practical application of highly specialized knowledge and attainment of a Bachelor's or higher degree or its equivalent or a fashion model. The employer must demonstrate that the position is one requiring a professional in a specialty occupation and that the intended employee has the required qualifications. Visa may be granted up to a maximum initial period of 3 years with extensions of stay up to a maximum of 3 additional years. In some specific circumstances, an individual may qualify for post-6-year H-1B extensions. Spouses and children can qualify for H-4 visas.
  • J-1 Exchange – Permits admission of trainees, students, scholars, professors and researchers who participate in a designated exchange program. Usually permits one to complete a degree plus 18 months for practical training. Alien may be required to reside abroad for 2 years after J-1 completion. Spouse and children qualify for J-2 status and are subject to any foreign residency requirements. Waivers of the foreign residency requirement may be available through exceptional hardship, fear of persecution, interest of a United States government agency, a "no-objection" statement, or the Conrad 30 program.
  • K-1 Fiancé(e) of United States Citizen – Permits admission for an alien coming to the United States to marry a United States Citizen whom the alien has met within the last 2 years. Must be married within 90 days after entry. The alien must adjust status in the United States, and is granted conditional permanent residency. Minor children may qualify for a K-2 visa.
  • L-1 Intra-Company Transferee – Alien who within 3 years preceding application has been employed by a firm or corporation or other legal entity at least one year continuously and will be coming to the United States temporarily to work for the same employer or a subsidiary or affiliate in a managerial, executive, or position of specialized knowledge. Usually authorized to stay 5 years if specialized knowledge, and 7 years for managers and executives. Spouse and children and qualify for the L-2 visa.
  • O-1 Extraordinary Ability – Alien with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim, or demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in movies or television, or accompanists and assistants as integral part of actual performance with critical skills and experience not of a general nature.
  • P-1 Athletes/Artists/Famous Entertainment Groups and Teams Internationally Known – An athlete, individually or part of a team, at an internationally recognized performance and with a sustained and substantial relationship with the group for one year, entering U.S. temporarily and solely for the purpose of performing as an artist or entertainer.
  • R-1 Religious Worker – Alien who for two years immediately preceding application has been a member of a religious denomination having a bona fide non-profit, religious organization in the United States entering for a period not to exceed five years as a minister of a religious denomination.
  • Change of Status / Extension of Status – Depending on each individual case, persons may be able to change status from one nonimmigrant status to another, or to extend their current nonimmigrant status.

  • To determine which nonimmigrant visa option may be available to you, please contact our office for a consultation.