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Nonimmigrant Visa Classifications

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A
Diplomatic personnel
such as ambassadors or consuls and their immediate families may apply for the A-1 visa. Other officials or employees of foreign governments and their immediate families may be granted the A-2 visa.

B-2
Tourists who wish to visit the USA for pleasure usually apply for a tourist visa (known as a B-2) which requires proving that they possess ties to the country of origin and that they do not intend to remain in the USA permanently (called “absence of immigrant intent”).

F-1
Students
who have been accepted by a full-time accredited academic program at a college or university in the USA apply for the F-1 visa. This visa does not give the holder the right to work in the USA except for working at the school attended under limited circumstances. Students holding F-category visas also must verify their school enrollment and immigrant status through the SEVIS system, which is designed to keep track of the student’s academic progress and whereabouts.

B-1

Business Visitors
who plan to spend a limited time in the USA in order to attend meetings or handle business matters apply for the B-1 visa.

M

Vocational
or Other Non-Academic Program Students apply for the M-1 visa. The immediate family of the M-1 student is eligible to come to the country using the related M-2 visa.

L

Intra-company Transferees
who may be executive or managerial (L-1) workers or specialized knowledge workers (L-2) apply for the L visa, a basic requirement of which is that the applicant has worked for at least one year for the sponsoring employer outside the US. Sometimes when the employer has sponsored other transferees or would be willing to do so, this period may be shortened to six months.
H-1B
Specialized Occupation Workers who hold at least a Bachelor’s Degree (or its equivalent in job-related experience) apply for this very popular visa. This category covers most professionals. There is an annual limitation, called a “cap”, on the number of H1B visas issued which is the subject of much current debate.

J
Exchange Program
Participants who wish to come to the USA to study, work or train as part of an international exchange apply for J-1 visa. A basic requirement is that the exchange program must be certified by an agency of the federal government called the United States Information Agency (USIA).

K
Fiancé or Fiancée of a US Citizen who wishes to enter the US in order to marry the citizen applies for a certain visa (K-1) which allows the holder to apply for admission into the country for a period of 90 days. The holder of a K-1 visa must marry within that time or else he or she will be removed from the country. Once the marriage takes place, however, the K-1 holder may apply to change their status to that of an immigrant; if approved he or she becomes a Conditional Lawful Permanent Resident (CLPR).

R
Religious workers who are members of a religious denomination that has a bona (genuine) non-profit organization within the United States and who seek to come to the USA for the purpose of carrying on a ministry may apply for the R-1 visa. It is necessary that the applicant has been a member of the religious denomination for at least two years before the date of application for the R-1 visa. The R-1 visa holder may not remain in the USA for more than 5 years using the R-1 visa. The derivative R-2 visa exists for the Spouse or child of the R-1 religious worker.

O
An individual who is recognized as having Extraordinary Ability in the Sciences, Arts, Education, Business, or Athletics and who wishes to come to the USA to continue to engage in the field of his or her outstanding talent may apply for the O-1 visa. It is usual for the individual to demonstrate national or international acclaim or at least recognition of his or her work through being awarded prestigious awards or prizes in order to qualify for the O-1 category. Related visas exist for the support staff (O-2) of the O-1 individual when the O-1individual requires the aid of the O-2 support staff or assistants as part of the performance. The O-1 visa holder’s spouse or child may apply for the derivative O-3 visa.

P-1
P-2
P-3
P-4

Individual Athletes may apply for the P-1 visa to enter the US for a period of up to 5 years. Individuals or Members of Athletic Groups or Entertainment Groups which are part of a reciprocal Exchange Program may be eligible for the P-2 visa category. Where the program is considered by the US immigration authorities to be culturally unique, the participant may apply for another visa (P-3). The related P-4 visa allows the Spouse or child of P-1, P-2, or P-3 visa to apply for admission to the USA when accompanying their artist, athlete or entertainer family member.