If you wish to enter the U.S. for a temporary period of time, a non-immigrant visa permits you to travel to a U.S. port of entry and request permission of the Department of Homeland Security to visit for a specific purpose – work, schooling, a conference, etc., or to visit the country, friends or family.
A non-immigrant visa differs from an immigrant visa in that the non-immigrant visa only allows a person to enter temporarily, whereas an immigrant visa holder can enter and stay permanently.
The length of time someone can stay in the U.S. depends on the visa status under which they are admitted. A person admitted in one status can often change their status in order to stay longer--or to perform different activities. For instance, a student may want to change his or her status to an employer-sponsored non-immigrant visa once they graduate and find employment (assuming their new employer will sponsor them). Several types of non-immigrant visas also allow a person to extend their status and thereby extend their stay in the U.S.
The process can sometimes be confusing and complicated. Our office can make it much easier, determining the visa category that is right for you and assisting you with changing status from your current category to the new category. In appropriate cases, we can also obtain legal status and work authorization for your dependent family members.
The following is a brief list of the most commonly used temporary work and investment visa categories:
E-1 Treaty Traders
The E-1 visa allows an individual to enter the United States on a non-immigrant basis for the sole purpose of carrying on substantial trade between his or her home country and the United States. The home country of the non-immigrant must have a treaty with the United States.
E-2 Treaty Investor
If you come to the U.S. to run an enterprise in which you are invested, you may obtain the non-immigrant visa status of E-2 treaty investor. If you are an employee of a treaty trader investor you may also be qualified as an E visa holder if your duties require special qualifications essential to the business. The non-immigrant must have the same nationality as the alien employer and the home country of the non-immigrant must have a treaty with the United States.
E-3 Treaty Professional Visa for Australian Nationals
The E-3 Visa is a new Work Visa category available only to Australian citizens. The E-3 Treaty Professional Visa is a temporary work visa usually issued for 2 years at a time. It is limited to the citizens of Australia. The primary E-3 Work Visa applicant must be going to the United States to work in a specialty occupation. The spouse and children of the main E-3 Visa applicant do not need to be Australian citizens. Spouses of E-3 Visa holders are entitled to E-3D (dependent) Visas and work authorization.
"Specialty Occupation" means an occupation that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and attainment of a bachelor's or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the United States. The definition is the same as the Immigration and Nationality Act definition of an H-1B specialty occupation.
The annual quota for E-3 Visas is 10,500. This a very high quota, by comparison only 900 Australians succeeded in obtaining H-1B Work Visas in 2004. The H-1B Work Visa has an annual cap of 65,000. This quota applies to citizens of all countries in the world, while the E-3 Visa is available to Australians only. If you are an Australian citizen, the E-3 Visa can be easier to obtain than the H-1B Work Visa. E-3 Work Visas are temporary visas, meaning that when the visa expires, the individual has to leave the United States. E-3 Work Visas are usually issued for 2 years. However, E-3 Visas may be renewed indefinitely in two-year extensions.
H1-B Specialty Occupation for Professionals
This non-immigrant visa classification applies to an alien who will be employed temporarily in a specialty occupation (one which typically requires a Bachelor’s degree) or as a fashion model of distinguished merit and ability. Under current law, there is an annual limit of 65,000 aliens who may be issued a visa or otherwise provided H-1B status. As many as 20,000 additional H-1B slots are available to graduates of U.S. Master’s degree (or higher) programs.
H-2B for Temporary Nonagricultural Workers
The H-2B nonimmigrant visa classification applies to an alien who will be employed temporarily by US employers to perform temporary nonagricultural work on a one-time, seasonal, peakload or intermittent basis. There is currently a 66,000 visa cap on the number of foreign workers who may receive initial H-2B status during each fiscal year (October 1 through September 30). Returning H-2B workers are exempt from this cap limitation.
H-3 Visa for Trainees
The H-3 nonimmigrant visa classification applies to an alien who will come to the United States to receive training that is not available in the alien’s home country, where the alien is not be placed in a position which is part of the normal operation of business which would ordinarily be filled by a US worker and the alien is not productively employed unless such employment is “incidental and necessary” to the training and the training must benefit the alien in pursuit of employment outside the United States. There are only 3000 H-1 visas available during each fiscal year.
L-1 Intra-company Transfers
The L-1 visa permits multinational companies to transfer high-level and essential employees from their international offices to the United States. The non-immigrant would work at the affiliate or subsidiary of that same employer in the U.S. in a managerial, executive, or specialized knowledge capacity.
O-1 Individuals of Extraordinary Ability or Achievement
Highly talented or acclaimed individuals may be eligible for an O visa for entry into the U.S. People who may qualify for this visa are physicians, scientists and accomplished business people as well as athletes considered at the top of their field.
P-1, P-2 and P-3 Visa for Athletes and Entertainers
P-1, P-2 and P-3 visas allows internationally recognized athletes or entertainers to come to the United States to perform who do not meet the threshold of O Visa classification.
P-1 visa allows internationally recognized individual or team athletes or members of entertainment group, artists or entertainers to work in the United States. P-2 visa allows artists and entertainers to perform under an exchange program. P-3 visa allows artists and entertainers to perform under a program that is culturally unique. Spouse and unmarried children of the P visa holder may also accompany the P visa holder with P-4 visa to the United States during his or her duration of stay.
R-1 Religious Workers
The R-1 visa permits religious workers to come to the U.S. to take on a religious occupation and perform services for their religious organization. The religious organization must already be established in the United States.
These visas are limited to nationals of Canada and Mexico. If you are employed in one of the sixty-three listed professions in NAFTA, you can apply for non-immigrant TN status. Most of the listed professions require either a bachelor's degree or a licensures degree.
In order to discuss your non-immigrant work visa options in the United States, please contact us for consultation.
Other Non-immigrant Visas
In addition, there are other commonly used temporary visas available for purposes other than work that include:
B1 and B2 Visitor Visa
This is the most commonly used visa used by visitors for business (B1) and visitor for pleasure (B2). The length of B1 and B2 visas depends on the reciprocity schedule which may be up to ten years. However, B-1 Visitors are granted admission only for the duration of the business and B2 Visitors are normally authorized to stay for a maximum of six months.
Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
Under this program, citizens of twenty-seven countries are allowed to enter the United States without a visa for a maximum of ninety days and cannot extend or change their status without leaving the United States and seeking visa abroad. There are 27 participating countries in the VWP including Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdom.
F-1 and M-1 – Student Visa
Those who wish to engage in academic studies in the United States must seek admission in an accredited U.S. college or university or to study English at a university or intensive English language institute in order to be eligible for F-1 visa. Foreign students must be enrolled in a full- time academic program and must demonstrate that they have the financial means to support their program and length of stay in the United States. Spouses and children of F-1 visa holders are granted F-2 visa.
M visa is available to international students who wish to pursue a full-time course of study at an established vocational school or other nonacademic school in the United States approved by USCIS. Typical institutions that accept M students include community and junior colleges that provide vocational and technical training, vocational high schools, and other schools that provide nonacademic training, other than English language instruction. The school must demonstrate that its international student program will fulfill educational objectives and will not be used as a means of making the students work. Students are designated M-1 and their spouses and children are M-2.
J-1 – Exchange Visitor Visa
J-1 visas are issued to individuals who participate in a wide range of exchange visitor programs sponsored by schools, businesses, and a variety of organizations and institutions. These programs are envisioned for business and industrial trainees, scholars, students, international visitors, teachers, research assistants and those on cultural missions. In addition, there are several exchange visitor programs for young people, including summer employment programs, internship programs for university students, and au-pair programs.
For more information on non-immigrant visas and your options and eleigibility, please contact our office for consultation.
Phone : 202-293-6198 Fax : 202-293-6198