The following is a brief overview of the common non-immigrant visas:
B-1 Visa (Visitor for Business)
B-1 visas allow those coming to the U.S. to do business on a foreign employers’ behalf. U.S. employers cannot hire B-1 visa holders. Traditionally, B-1 visas are valid for 180 days. B-1 visas holders can perform a variety of tasks that benefit their foreign employers. These tasks include consulting with business associates, traveling for a convention, attending a conference on specific dates, settling an estate, or negotiating a contract.
B-2 Visa (Visitor Visa for Pleasure, Tourism, or Medical Treatment)
The B-2 visa allows foreigners to come to the United States to partake in activities that are recreational in nature, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, and other social activities.
F visas are issued to students enrolled in academic institutions. F visa holders may work on campus throughout their studies and during school vacations, and with authorization, may engage in practical training during their studies or for one year after completion. Any further training activities requires authorization from the educational institution and USCIS.
J Visas, and waivers of the J-visa foreign residency requirement
J visas allow sponsoring institutions to bring students, researchers and business or industrial trainees into the United States to participate in exchange or training programs authorized by the United States Information Agency (USIA). Some exchange visitors on a J visa must return to their home country upon completion of their U.S. training before they may apply for permanent residence or to change to many non-immigrant visas. An exchange visitor on a J Visa may be subject to the two-year foreign residency requirement where one of the following conditions applies:
- If the exchange program is funded by either the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitors’ nationality or last residence;
- If at the time of admission to the U.S., the exchange visitor was engaged in a field which was on the Department of State’s Exchange Visitor Skills List; or
- If the exchange program involves medical clinical work.
Individuals who are subject to the two-year home residency requirement may apply for a waiver of this requirement in certain circumstances, such as:
- If the requirement would result in persecution of the exchange visitor;
- If departure of the exchange visitor would cause exceptional hardship to U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident spouse or child;
- If the exchange visitor’s home country issues a no-objection statement;
- If a waiver is requested by a U.S. Federal Executive Agency; or
- For International Medical Graduates, a waiver may be obtained through a recommendation issued by a government agency interested in the physician’s employment in a federally designated medically underserved area.
The attorneys at Goldstein & Associates have experience setting up exchange programs for companies interested in hosting J-visa holders, as well as obtaining waivers of the two-year home residency requirement.
E Visas (Treaty Trader and Treaty Investor Visas)
A foreign national who is a citizen of a country that has a treaty with the United States can enter the United States to invest in a business or to engage in international trade under either an E-1 (Treaty Traders) or an E-2 (Treaty Investors) visa. See this page for a list of the nations that have treaty arrangements with the US for E Visa purposes.
Under the E-1 visa, foreign nationals enter the United States to engage in substantial trade of goods, services, or technology with treaty countries. An E-1 treaty trader must be an executive or manager or hold a job that requires skills essential to the employer, and the company must be majority-owned by treaty nations.
The E-2 visa allows investors who are nationals of treaty countries to remain in the United States to develop, direct, and oversee business that involves investing substantial sums of money in an active business in the U.S. The E-2 visa includes managers, executives, and essentially skilled employees from treaty countries.
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age may accompany the principal holder of an E visa. An E visa holder’s spouse can apply for an Employment Authorization Document after entry to the United States.
H-1B Visa (Specialty Occupations)
Foreign nationals employed in specialty occupations involving the application of highly specialized knowledge are eligible for an H-1B Visa. H-1B visas are typically valid for an initial period of three years, and can be extended for an additional three years. After this six year period, extensions are available where a labor certification has been filed one year before the H-1B expires, or where an I-140 petition filed by an employer on behalf of the foreign worker has been approved. The USCIS limits the number of H-1B Visas approved every year. For the fiscal year, the number of H-1B visas is capped at 65,000, with an additional 20,000 visas available for workers with a Masters degree or higher from a U.S. educational institution.
H-2B Visa (Temporary Workers)
H-2B visas are issued to foreign nationals to work temporarily in jobs for which employers can prove a shortage of qualified American workers. The position must be temporary and the employer must prove that the need for the employee will end within a period that does not extend the visa’s expiration, which is initially one year.
H-3 Visas (Trainees)
Foreign nationals can enter the United States for up to two years for training and skill development to use in their careers in other countries under an H-3 Visa. Trainees must enroll in structured training programs at United States companies, and the programs must be unavailable in the foreigner’s home country. The skills learned must be relevant to the foreign national’s work outside the United States.
L Visas (Intercompany Transferees)
L-1 visas permit foreign companies with branches or affiliations in the United States to transfer Managers, Executives, and those with specialized knowledge, to their United States facilities. The foreign national must assume comparable duties in the United States with the same employer, or with an affiliate or subsidiary of the same employer. For an L-1 visa to remain valid, the foreign operation must continue to do business in the foreign country during the entire period the L-1 visa is valid. Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years old of intracompany transferees may be granted L-2 visas. An L-2 visa holder is not permitted to work in the United States. Please see the frequently asked questions page for further information regarding L-1 visas.
O Visas (Extraordinary Ability)
O Visas are available to people with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics. Applicants must prove their extraordinary ability by providing national or international acclaim, they can only enter the U.S. to work in their specific field, and USCIS must find that their admission substantially benefits the United States. This visa is granted for up to three years, and may be renewed for subsequent one year periods.
P Visas (Performing Artist)
P Visas are available to foreign athletes and performers. The attorneys at Goldstein & Associates have assisted a wide variety of athletes and performers from around the world to obtain P visas, enabling them to compete and perform in the United States. The following P visas are available, depending on the nature of the competition or performance:
- P-1 visa: issued to internationally recognized entertainers and athletes
- P-2 visa: issued to reciprocal exchange artists and entertainers
- P-3 visa: issued to culturally unique artists and entertainers
- P-4 visa: granted to family members of P-1, P-2 and P-3 visa holders
Q visas are available to foreign workers participating in a cultural exchange program to share the traditions of their country with the American public. The attorneys at Golstein & Associates have successfully assisted numerous foreign nationals to obtain Q visas in order to participate in cultural exchange programs in the United States.
R visas are available to foreign workers in a religious occupation or vocation who have been a member of the religious denomination for two (2) years or more prior to applying. If you or your religious organization is interested in applying for an R visa, please contact our office to schedule your free consultation with one of Goldstein & Associates experienced attorneys.
Seek Experienced Legal Representation
A wide variety of nonimmigrant visas are available to foreign nationals who wish to come to the United States on a temporary basis. Experienced legal counsel can assist you in determining the proper type of visa, prepare and file the appropriate paperwork, and ensure that you have submitted the appropriate documentation required for visa approval.