The ABCs of Non-immigrant Visas
International visitors add greatly to our nation’s cultural, education and economic life. As such, the United States has a large variety of nonimmigrant visas available to foreign nationals.
Most Canadian citizens and many citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries can come to the United States without a visa if they meet certain requirements. Other foreign citizens need a nonimmigrant visa in order to enter the U.S.
Nonimmigrant visas are for citizens of other countries, coming to the U.S. temporarily. The visa, placed in your passport when issued, allows you to travel to a U.S. port-of-entry (such as an airport), and request permission of the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection immigration officer to enter the U.S. *NOTE: A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S.
International travelers come to the U.S. for a wide variety of reasons, including tourism, business, medical treatment and certain types of temporary work. The type of visa needed is defined by immigration law, and relates to the principal purpose of travel. Most of these visas are very specialized and only available to a select group, while some are available to a greater number of people, but each visa has its own set of requirements that must be met in order to obtain it.
Below is a list of the different nonimmigrant visas explaining who they are meant for and what their requirements are. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or if you believe you qualify for any of these visas.
Diplomats and Government Representatives, and their Staffs
- A Diplomatic Personnel such as Ambassadors, public ministers or career diplomats and their immediate family members.
- C2 Representative in transit to or from the UN Headquarters District
- C3 Government Representatives in transit through the US
- G Other Government Representatives who are coming the US to work for an international organization, their staff members and immediate family members.
- NATO NATO associates coming to the U.S. under applicable provisions of the NATO Treaty, and their immediate family members.
*The A, G, and NATO visas all have provisions for personal attendants, servants or employees and their immediate family members.
Tourists and Visitors on Business
- B1 Business Visitors who are coming into the U.S. on business, such as various business meetings. The visitor is authorized to remain in the U.S. for a specified period, and may not work.
- B2 Tourists temporarily coming to visit the U.S. on vacation, to visit relatives or for other similar reasons. The person must intend to return abroad when the visit is complete, and he or she must have definite plans to return to a residence abroad. The visitor is authorized to remain in the U.S. for a specified period, and may not work.
- WB For Business Visitors entering the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program
- WT For Tourist entering the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program
Students and Exchange Visitors, and their Dependents
- F Academic or Language students and their immediate family members. This visa is restricted to full-time students (with the exception of the F3 Commuter Student) in an approved school, and be making satisfactory progress towards a specific degree or academic objective.
- J Exchange Program Visitors, and their immediate family members, coming to the U.S. to study, work or train as part of an exchange program officially recognized by the U.S. Information Agency.
- M Vocational or other nonacademic students (other than language students), and their immediate family members.
Fiancees and certain relatives of U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents
- K1/K2 Fianc’es of U.S. Citizens coming to the U.S. for the purpose of getting married and their dependent children.
- K3/K4 Spouses and children of U.S. citizen petitioners awaiting approval of their visa petition and the availability of an immigrant visa.
- V Spouses and children of a U.S. lawful permanent resident petitioner who have already waited three years for the approval of their visa petition or for an immigrant visa to become available. (LIFE Act)
Nonimmigrant Workers and their Dependents
- D. Crewman who need to land temporarily in the U.S. and who will depart aboard the same ship or plane on which they arrived.
- E Treaty Traders and Treaty Investors working for a U.S. trading company that does 50% or more of its business with the trader’s home country, or 50% or more of its investment capital coming from the worker’s home country.
- H-1B Persons working in specialty occupations requiring at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent in on-the-job experience, and distinguished fashion models.
- H-1C Registered Nurses in a health professional shortage area.
- H-2A Temporary agricultural workers coming to the U.S. to fill positions for which a temporary shortage of American workers has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- H-2B Temporary Skilled and Unskilled workers of various kinds coming to the U.S. to perform temporary jobs for which there is a shortage of available qualified American workers.
- H-3 Temporary Trainees coming for on-the-job training unavailable in their home countries.
- H-4 Immediate family member of H-1, H-2 or H-3 visa holders.
- I Bona fide representatives of the foreign press coming to the U.S. to work solely in that capacity and their immediate family members.
- L Intercompany transferees who work in positions as managers, executives or persons with specialized knowledge, and their immediate family members.
- O Persons of extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. There are also provisions for essential support staff and immediate family member of O visa holders.
- P-1 Internationally recognized athletes and entertainers and their essential support staff.
- P-2 Entertainers coming to perform in the U.S. through a government-recognized exchange program.
- P-3 Artists and entertainers coming to the U.S. in a group for the purpose of presenting culturally unique performances.
- P-4 Immediate family members of P-1, P-2 and P-3 visa holders.
- Q Exchange visitors coming to the U.S. to participate in international cultural-exchange programs, and their immediate family members.
- R Religious workers such as Ministers and other recognized religions, and their immediate family members.
- TN The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), streamlined procedures to allow certain professional workers to temporarily work in the U.S. There are currently two nonimmigrant categories based on NAFTA: TN1 for Canadian professionals and TN2 for Mexican professionals.
- TD Immediate family members of TN visa holders.
Other Nonimmigrant Visas
- C1 Foreign travelers in immediate and continuous transit through the U.S.
- S-1 People coming to the U.S. to supply critical information to federal or state authorities where it has been determined that their presence in the U.S. is essential to the success of a criminal investigation or prosecution.
- S-2 People coming to the U.S. to provide critical information to federal authorities or a court, who will be in danger as a result of providing such information, and are eligible to receive a reward for the information.
- S-3 Immediate family member of S-1 or S-2 visa holders.
- T Women and children who are in the U.S. because they are victims of trafficking, who are cooperating with law enforcement, and who fear extreme hardship (such as retribution) if returned home.
- U For people who have suffered “substantial physical or mental abuse” as a result of certain U.S. criminal violations including domestic violence, and are assisting law enforcement authorities.