If you wish to enter or live in the United States, your passport is not enough—you must also obtain a U.S. visa. However, you will need to choose from more than 50 different kinds. Today, traveling or immigrating to the U.S. can be a serious challenge, and deciding which visa is best for you is its own extensive undertaking.
Before selecting a specific visa, you will need to decide whether you need an immigrant visa or a non-immigrant visa.
What Is the Difference Between Immigrant Visas and Non-Immigrant Visas?
The basic difference between these is the purpose and length of stay. Foreign nationals who want to live permanently in the United States need immigrant visas. Non-immigrant visas are for those looking to live in the U.S. temporarily.
Types of Immigrant Visas
If you are applying for an immigrant visa, your process will change depending on your current location. If you are living outside of the U.S., you will apply at a U.S. Department of State consular office in your country. If you are an undocumented immigrant, refugee, or student/worker who is already in the United States, you will need to adjust your status to permanent resident with the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
In most cases, the immigrant visa applicant is sponsored by a relative or employer. You may not need a sponsor if you are extraordinarily specialized, or you are a certain type of investor or special immigrant.
You can be family-sponsored if you are:
- An unmarried son/daughter of a U.S. citizen
- A spouse, child, or unmarried son/daughter of a legal permanent resident
- Married son/daughter of a U.S. citizen
- A brother/sister of a U.S. citizen who is 21 or older
To obtain family-sponsorship, you will need to prove your relationship, and your relative will need to file a petition on your behalf.
You may be eligible for employment sponsorship if you are:
- A priority worker
- A professional with an advanced degree or exceptional ability
- A skilled worker or professional
- A needed unskilled worker
- A special immigrant (such as a religious worker, U.S. employee living abroad, etc.)
- An investor (otherwise referred to as an employment creation immigrant)
Applying for employment-sponsored status is similar to family-sponsorship because your employer will need to file a petition for you. However, you will also be required to file a labor certification request with the U.S. Department of Labor.
In less common cases (roughly 4-5% of immigrant visa recipients), you may qualify for a diversity visa. Diversity visas are meant for foreign nationals from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S. The U.S. typically grants 50-55,000 diversity visas each year using a lottery system.
Types of Non-Immigrant Visas
The U.S. Department of State lists more than 20 different types of non-immigrant visas, but most recipients are either tourists or business visitors. B-1 visas are most appropriate for foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. for business purposes, such as meetings, contract negotiations, and estate settlements. B-2 visas are best for those visiting the U.S. on vacation (i.e. pleasure or tourism) or for medical treatment. The maximum period of stay for both types is usually 6 months.
Some of the other common, non-immigrant visa categories include:
- Tourists and business visitors
- Foreign nationals in transit
- Temporary workers
- Certain family members of special immigrants
- Representatives of international organizations
Contact a Skilled Attorney for Additional Information or Support
Our lawyers at Gambacorta Law understand how overwhelming or confusing the immigration process may be. Even temporary visitors and employees find themselves facing unexpected legal hurdles. With experienced legal counsel, you are more likely to experience a smooth application process and the confidence that your documentation is free of error.Call our law firm at (847) 443-9303 or schedule your consultation online today. We will answer all your questions to fully prepare you for this process.