The purpose of a non-immigrant visa is temporary entry to the U.S., as opposed to an immigrant visa, which allows one to enter the country and stay permanently. The duration of a non-immigrant visa is dependent on the “visa status” – some individuals are awarded non-immigrant visas because they are skilled in a special occupation; others may be college students, etc.
If your objective is to obtain a non-immigrant visa for yourself or a member of your family, the Shirazi Law Group can assist you by identifying the correct visa type and filing the necessary applications and paperwork.
Many schools in the United States offer great opportunities for students who wish to further their education and training. The intellectual stimulation and social interaction gained by studying in the U.S. can become vital elements of a student’s growth and development.
Foreign national students who want to study in the U.S. usually apply for the F-1 visa. Vocational students most often apply for M-1 status. You must apply to and be accepted by a USCIS-approved school before applying for either an F-1 or M-1 visa. You will also need to be able to prove to the U.S. consulate that you have the money to afford to both go to school and take care of your expenses while in the U.S.
F-2 status allows your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 to join you in the U.S. Note that you should bring them with you when you visit the consulate to apply for your F-1 visa. If your spouse and/or dependent children are joining you later, they will need to submit a copy of your USCIS Form (Certificate of Eligibility for Non-immigrant (F-1) Student Status – for Academic and Language Students) and documents proving their relationship to you to the U.S. embassy staff. The F-2 status of spouse and children is dependent upon your F-1 status. As soon as you are no longer an F-1 student, your family members lose their F-2 status.
F-1 students have the opportunity to work in their field of study both before graduation (curricular practical training) and after (optional practical training (OPT)).
The M-1 visa offers students the opportunity to train in a positive U.S. environment while strengthening their technical and non-academic skills (this visa does not apply to language training). The M-1 visa is offered to students who wish to pursue full-time study at an USCIS-approved vocational or non-academic school in the U.S.
Your spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may join you in the U.S. if they have non-immigrant M-2 status. Although M-1 and M-2 visa holders are not allowed to work, M-1 holders may apply for an extension of up to six months for practical training. If you lose your status, your spouse and children will also lose their status.
Visa Waiver Program
Businesses from around the world come to the U.S. to buy, sell, consult, and otherwise engage in commerce.. The best way to temporarily visit the U.S. to promote a business venture is under B-1 status. A B-1 visa allows access to a variety of economic opportunities in the U.S. Individuals eligible for this visa range from board members and athletes, to musicians, entertainers, and servants of non-immigrants, to salesmen.
B-1 visa applicants must be able to prove:
- The nature of the business that they plan to do.
- The exact length of time that they need to conduct their business.
- Their intention to return to their home country after the business has been concluded.
B-1 applicants may stay in the U.S. for up to one year, depending on the amount of time granted upon their entry to the U.S.
The B-2 visa is the ideal entry pass for tourists interested in seeing the U.S. through brief trips for pleasure. The State Department defines “pleasure trips” as legitimate activities of a recreational character such as tourism, amusement, visits to friends and/or relatives, rest, medical treatment, or activities of a social or service nature.
B-2 applicants must prove:
- Their purpose in coming to the U.S.
- They will remain in the U.S. for a specific amount of time.
- They have enough money to pay for their stay in the U.S.
- They have a permanent residence in their home country to which they intend to return.
B-2 applicants may stay in the U.S. for up to one year, depending on the amount of time granted upon their entry to the U.S.
Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) offers an easy, effective method to travel to the U.S. for business or pleasure. The program enables citizens of participating countries to travel to the U.S. for pleasure or business for 90 days or less without officially obtaining a U.S. visa.
Certain exceptions apply, including people who plan to work or study in the U.S., stay more than 90 days, or people who might otherwise be ineligible for a visa. Travelers who have previously been denied visas, who have criminal records or who may be ineligible to enter the U.S. on the VWP, should contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate before attempting to use the VWP to enter the U.S.
Visa Waiver Program applicants must:
- Have a machine-readable passport issued by a participating country that is valid for at least six months beyond the date of return.
- Have a round-trip ticket issued on a carrier that has signed an agreement with the U.S. government to participate in the VWP.
- Agree to waive any right to contest removal after 90 days in the U.S.
Travelers passing through the United States don’t need to be trapped in the airport. The C-1 Visa, also known as the transit visa, enables traveling non-immigrants to leave the airport to visit family or friends or to partake in tourist or shopping ventures. You are required to leave the U.S. on your departing flight. Each family member should apply for a separate C-1 visa.
You may petition for the C visas in person or by mail. Please contact the USCIS Branch, U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consular office that has jurisdiction over the location of your home.
To apply for a C Visa, you must supply the following documents:
- A completed visa application Form DS-156. Separate applications for each person are required.
- Two recent photographs 1 & 1/2 inches square (37mm x 37mm) of each applicant, with the entire face visible. The picture should be taken before a light background and without head covering.
- A passport, valid for travel to the United States for at least six months longer than your intended visit.
You must also prove the following:
- You are entering the U.S. only to pass through in transit
- You have enough funds to reach your proposed destination.
- You have a ticket or other means to reach your proposed destination.
- You have permission to enter the country of your final destination, if necessary.
- Your stay cannot exceed 29 days.
The C-2 visa allows foreign nationals to travel to and from the United Nations. C-2 visas are valid for up to 29 days. C-2 visa holders may not change their status. Under certain circumstances, this visa may be used for foreign nationals in transit and crewmembers.
Government officials traveling through the U.S. to a foreign destination may apply for the C-3 Visa. This visa will enable you to leave the airport and enjoy your surroundings. Your family members and personal employees may also apply for the C-3 Visa. C-3 visa holders may not accept employment while under this status. The C-3 visa is valid for up to 29 days, and under certain circumstances may be used for foreign nationals in transit or crewmembers of a ship or aircraft.
Crewpersons serving in good faith for normal operations aboard vessels docked temporarily in the U.S. may apply for the D-1 Visa. This classification includes musicians, stewards, technicians, and chefs.
You may temporarily remain in the U.S. for as long as you are a member of the crew. People who are traveling with the D-1 visa holder may remain in the U.S. for as long as the D-1 non-immigrant is allowed. Under certain circumstances, D-1 visa holders may be permitted to perform longshore work in U.S. ports of entry.
This visa does not apply to workers on U.S. fishing boats.
Crewpersons serving in good faith for normal operations aboard vessels may apply for the D-2 Visa. This classification includes musicians, stewards, technicians and chefs. The D-2 visa is designed for crewmembers or airmen who are leaving one vessel to depart on another. Those who are traveling with the D-2 crewmember are allowed to do so for as long as the visa remains valid.
U.S immigration policy supports investors and foreign commerce in a variety of ways. The E-1 Visa is issued to individuals known as “treaty traders.” A treaty trader must be a national of a country with which the U.S. maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation.
The E-1 applicant must be coming to the U.S. to carry on substantial trade, or to develop and direct the operations of a business in which he or she has invested or will soon invest a substantial amount of capital.
The E-1 visa application may be turned in to a U.S. consulate in the applicant’s home country. E-1 visa holders may remain in the United States for up to two years.
Spouses and children of E-1 visa holders may accompany the treaty trader and are eligible to to apply for and receive employment authorization.
U.S. immigration policy supports investors and foreign commerce in a variety of ways. The E-2 visa is issued to individuals known as “treaty investors.” A treaty investor is defined as a national of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation.
The treaty investor must be able to demonstrate that they are coming to the U.S. to partake in either a substantial investment (including business in services or technology between, primarily, the U.S. and the treaty nation) or to direct the operations of a business in which the E-2 visa holder has invested or will soon invest a substantial amount of money.
E-2 visa holders must own more than fifty percent of the proposed investment, unless that person is entering the U.S. as an employee of a business providing more than fifty percent of the total investment.
E-2 visa holders may remain in the United States for up to two years. Spouses and children under the age of 21 may accompany under derivative status.
The I visa is a vital tool for connecting all nations as the international community moves toward increasing globalization. The I visa is available to members of the media, such as reporters, freelance journalists, and film crew members. I visas are available to persons only to work for a foreign media outlet or a U.S.-based subsidiary of a foreign media company.
I visas are only available to those who are based in their home country and intend to return home after their job has been completed. The I visa applicant must prove:
- That his or her stay in the U.S. will be temporary.
- That he or she will have sufficient funds to stay in the U.S.
- That he or she intends to return to the home country after the work has been completed.
The I visa holder’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may be eligible for derivative I status. Applicants for the derivative I visa must include a copy of the media employee’s I visa.
The J-1 visa is designed to provide educational and cultural exchange programs, and to promote the sharing of knowledge, skills and education in the arts and sciences. This visa enables people to participate in exchange programs in the United States.
J-1 visa holders include students, trainees involved in on-the-job training, visiting scholars and researchers, and consultants. Although many J-1 visa holders come to the U.S. for paid on-the-job training, exchange students who visit the U.S. under this status are not permitted to work.
The J-1 applicant must prove:
- That his or her stay in the U.S. will be temporary.
- That he or she will have sufficient funds to stay in the U.S.
- That he or she intends to return to home after the visit.
- That his or her stay in the U.S. is approved by a J-1 program recognized by USCIS.
Your spouse and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 may apply for entry under J-2 status. Dependents of J-1 visa holders may work in the U.S. if they can prove that they are able to provide for their own expenses.
Individuals interested in entering the United States to marry an American citizen and reside in the U.S. should apply for a K-1 Visa. The K-1 Visa (also known as the “fiancé(e) visa”) grants the holder conditional permanent resident status; however, the marriage must take place within 90 days of arriving in the United States. K-1 visa holders are eligible to receive employment authorization. The dependent children of K-1 visa holders may accompany the visa holder under K-2 status.
Life Act and Amendments
The Legal Immigration and Family Equity (LIFE) Act and amendments, effective since April 1, 2001, created several new categories of non-immigrant visas, including the V visa group, the K-3 Visa, and the K-4 Visa. These visas help to both ease the immigration process for thousands of individuals and to reunite families separated during the lengthy immigration approval process.
The new categories created by this act allow the issuance of non-immigrant visas to spouses, children and, in some cases, grandchildren of both lawful permanent resident aliens and spouses of U.S. citizens. Beneficiaries may apply for admission to the U.S. as non-immigrants and then remain in the U.S. until the visa petition is approved or denied.
The LIFE Act is specifically aimed at spouses and children for whom an immigrant visa or adjustment of status is not available as a result of processing delays or the lack of openings due to annual visa limitations.
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of legal permanent residents who have waited for three years for visa approval may apply for the V visa.
V-1 visas are issued to spouses; V-2 visas are issued to children; and V-3 visas are issued to derivative children of either spouses or children. In order to be classified as V-3, applicants must show that they are the children of V-1 or V-2 status individuals. All applicants must be eligible for visa issuance under all other applicable immigration laws.
Because V Visas are only available for petitions filed on or before December 21, 2000, the category will cease to exist when there are no more eligible candidates.
V visas are valid for up to two years.
K-3 and K-4 Visas
K visas are open to spouses of U.S. citizens who are the beneficiaries of an immigrant visa petition. The spouses’ unmarried children under the age of 21 are also eligible. After arriving in the U.S. under K status, these visa holders must apply for an immigrant visa or adjustment of status. K visa holders may seek employment regardless of whether their permanent status has been approved.
K visas are valid for up to two years.
The Q-1 visa supports international cultural exchange such as practical training, employment, and the sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of the participant’s home country in the U.S. This visa enables individuals to participate in exchange programs in the U.S.
Q-1 visa holders must be at least 18 years old and possess the ability to effectively convey their home country’s history and culture for a U.S. audience. Their U.S. sponsor must agree to pay them the same rate that a similar worker in the U.S. would receive.
The Q-1 application must be accompanied by evidence that the employer/sponsor:
- Intends to provide “an overview of the attitude, customs, history, heritage, philosophy, tradition and/or other cultural attributes of the participant’s home country.” Intends to make the program available to the public for the purpose of intercultural exchange between the visa holder and the American public.
- “Has designated a qualified employee to administer the program and serve as liaison with USCIS.”
- Can provide a working environment comparable to that of a domestic employee providing the same services.
- Is capable of properly compensating the Q-1 visa holder for his or her work.