Understanding Non-Immigrant Visas
In the United States, a non-immigrant visa is required for anyone who wishes to stay in the country on a temporary basis, including for work, tourism, and medical reasons. A non-immigrant visa does not grant you permanent residency in the country, nor does it give you the right to vote or acquire a new job, but it does grant you a temporary stay in the United States. While the process can be simple for some, non-immigrant visas can give rise to many complications.
The regulations pertaining to non-immigrant visas are strict, and the United States is careful to grant them only to individuals and families who fall within the guidelines. To ensure that you receive a visa, you must be visiting the United States for one of the following reasons:
- Career (includes business owners, athletes and entertainers)
- Medical care
- Family (includes children, spouses, and fiancé(e)s of current U.S. citizens)
- Foreign exchange program
Consular processing allows foreign nationals to apply for visas while still in their home country. This is best handled with an experienced Morris County immigration attorney working closely with a liaison (usually a family member or employer) already in the country.
Submitting a petition via consular processing presents its own challenges because we are no longer dealing with United States Customs and Immigrations Services. Instead, we are working with the Department of State. Access to files can be limited and backlogs are common. Nevertheless, an Morris County immigration attorney can ensure that the government has the requisite information to process your petition without unnecessary delays.
If you wish to study in the United States but are not a citizen, you can obtain a student visa that will allow you to pursue an education in the country legally. This visa does not grant you permanent residency, but it can lead to eventual citizenship down the road if you request a status change. Student visas are generally granted to individuals studying at a college or university and will not expire until his or her time as a student is up. Once you have been accepted to a school that has been approved by the Student Exchange and Visitor Program, you can come to an experienced Morris County immigration attorney for help with the process. It will help to have a liaison who is already here in the country, usually a school official or family member. An interview will also be mandatory for applicants between 14 and 79.
- Student visas are for those individuals who seek to study in the US. These visas do not grant permanent residency, however.
Visa Waivers for Tourists
Currently, about 40 countries in the world participate in the Visa Waiver program. This allows tourists to come to the U.S. with nothing more than a passport and a round-trip ticket, without visiting the Embassy to apply for a visa. These last 90 days and cannot be extended or converted into a different type of visa. The only exception would be if you married a U.S. citizen during those 90 days. You might, then, be able to stay and interview for a green card.
- The US is one of the 40 countries worldwide that participate in the visa waiver program that allows tourists to enter the US with nothing more than a passport and round-trip ticket.
B Tourist Visas
If you know you want to stay in the U.S. longer than 90 days, you will need a B visa. To obtain a B-1 (business) or B-2 (tourist) Visa, you need to go to the U.S. Embassy in your home country and apply, submitting your “plan” – no matter if your intent is to celebrate a holiday or family occasion, travel across the country, etc. You also need to prove temporary, rather than permanent intent to travel to the U.S., and prove that you have permanent ties in your home country. This can be difficult for the young or the elderly, who might not have a job or many family members in their home country. However, once in the U.S., you can seek an I-94 authorization to stay in the U.S. for up to six months. Also, if you have a B visa you can attempt to convert it to an H-1 professional visa or F-1 student visa.
- A B Visa (whether a B-1 for business or a B-2 for tourists) is for those individuals who want to stay in the US for more than 90 days.
U Visas for Domestic Violence Victims
USCIS reserves U visas (10,000 per year) for victims of crime, especially violent crime. Many applicants have suffered domestic abuse, kidnapping, prostitution, involuntary servitude, labor fraud, or sexual assault. If you have been a victim you may apply for a U visa, on the condition that you work with law enforcement by completing a I-918 form, usually available at your police department.
Because the U visa is reserved for victims, it depends on documentation from the police. This means that if you’ve been a victim, you must have contacted the police. Without documentation of the crime, the police will not sign off on your I-918 form.
Police may refuse to sign the I-918 form. This is entirely at their discretion. You may have other options, though. If your case has traveled through the courts, a prosecutor or judge may sign your form. If you’re not sure how to get a completed I-918 form, an immigration lawyer may have the expertise and the resources to help you.
The U visa comes with a work permit valid for three years. With a work permit you may obtain a Social Security Number and a driver’s license. After three years, you may apply for an adjustment of status, which could lead to a green card.
- The U Visa is for victims of crimes including domestic abuse, kidnapping, prostitution, involuntary servitude, labor fraud, or sexual assault.
H-1 workers are foreign professionals with specialized knowledge in a particular industry or discipline. They must have at least a four-year degree or equivalent training for this visa. USCIS considers three years of professional experience equivalent to one year of higher education, in this situation. If you have not completed a four-year (Bachelor’s-equivalent) degree, you may need to complete an educational evaluation, usually about six pages.
The H-1 visa category is used by U.S. employers for the temporary employment of foreign nationals in professional positions requiring specific educational and professional credentials. The foreign national must possess the minimum requirements for performance of the duties of the position and the position itself must qualify as a “specialty occupation,” i.e., one that minimally requires possession of a four-year university degree or equivalent. Furthermore, the employer must be able to demonstrate that alien’s salary can be paid as of the year of filing with DOL (i.e., business tax return, financial statement, business bank statements).
The initial period of stay granted to the alien admitted to the U.S. is governed by the time required by the employer, up to a maximum of three years. Extensions of stay may be obtained, but the alien cannot be continuously employed in H-1 status for more than six years.
- H-1 visas are for foreign professionals with specialized knowledge in a particular industry or discipline, and who have completed a minimum of a 4-year degree in a certain field of study.
An L-1 visa is for intra-company transfers of skilled employees, including managers, executives, and their support staff. Unlike the H-1 visa, the applicant does not have to have completed a four-year degree. The only qualification is that the transfer must clearly benefit the U.S. economy. Candidates must have worked at the foreign company for one year, and there must be a clear and important relationship between both companies (as when one is a parent company, or if both are subsidiaries of the same parent or holding company).
The United States L-1 visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows companies operating both in the US and abroad to transfer certain classes of employee from its foreign operations to the USA operations for up to seven years. The employee must have worked for a subsidiary, parent, affiliate or branch office of your U.S. company outside of the U.S. for at least one year out the last three years.
The following is a listing of documentation/information required by to commence the preparation and filing of an I-129L Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker (Corporate Transferee Visa).
Alien’s personal documents including:
- Completed Personal Analysis Questionnaire.
- Copies of passport and I-94.
- Copies of academic credentials, i.e., diploma, degrees, transcripts and if necessary, educational equivalency evaluation (with certified translations if applicable).
- Copies of marriage certificate and birth certificates of spouse or children and advice on if we are to include family members (there will be an additional fee for inclusion of family members) (with certified translations if applicable).
- Copy of alien’s resume, which must include the details of his/her professional experience for the past five years.
- Employer documents including:
- Completed Employer Questionnaire.
- Job title and five to seven sentence job description, highlighting key names and duties, monetary value of major projects or clients, salary, location where work will be performed (worksite).
- Contact person name, address, telephone, and fax numbers.
- Documentation of the Parent/Subsidiary Relationship between U.S. Company and Parent/Affiliate abroad.
- Articles of incorporation, partnership agreements, or other forms of business organization for the U.S. affiliate
- Two (2) Organizational Charts reflecting the following:
- Applicant’s position in the company prior to proposed transfer (insert the titles of both supervisors and individuals/departments supervised).
- Applicant’s proposed position after the transfer (insert the titles of both supervisors and individuals/departments supervised).
- The L-1 visa is much like the H-1 visa with one exception: the visa-holder does not need to have completed a 4-year degree program to be eligible.
An E visa is for a trader or an investor who enters the United States (under the provisions of a treaty agreement) to create a particular business or to direct the operations of an existing business or enterprise. It is of three types. The E-1 visa is for treaty investors; the E-2 visa is for treaty traders; and the E-3 visa is specifically for Australian nationals who come to the US to engage in a specialty occupation role. It is important to note that the E-1 and E-2 visas are available to individuals of certain nationalities only. Additionally, their native countries must have relevant trade agreements with the US.
- The E visa is primarily for traders and investors whose native countries have relevant trade agreements with the US.
The O visa is a non-immigrant visa for individuals with extraordinary abilities in fields like athletics, education, the sciences, the arts, or somebody who demonstrates sustained national and/or international acclaim and extraordinary achievements in other fields like the motion picture or television industry. This visa is for artists and sports figures. This visa is typically for individuals who come to the US to either compete, perform or continue work in their areas of expertise. Prima ballerinas, foreign athletes, and international entertainers enter the U.S. under an O visa.
- The O visa is for those individuals who demonstrate extraordinary abilities and/or achievements in a field or study, and who choose to come to the US to either compete, perform or continue work in their field.
The R visa is a temporary non-immigrant visa for religious workers from other countries. is for religious workers. It is important to note that not all religious workers qualify for this visa. The individual must have been a member of a religious denomination that has an authentic and genuine non-profit organization in the US. Additionally, said individual will need to be employed in a religious vocation by a non-profit religious organization in the US, or a foreign one that has affiliations with a religious denomination in the US.
The R visa is primarily for religious workers who meet certain other criteria.
A TN visa is similar to an H1, but applies to professionals from Canada and Mexico covered under NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). Obtaining this visa is an expedited process that can often occur right at the border. Remember, these visas are not green cards. They are non-immigrant, short-term visas. You only obtain legal permanent residence after you adjust your status. However, they allow the visa holder to reside in the United States for a set number of years, and may be renewed while the visa holder is in the country.
- The TN is a renewable non-immigrant visa that is similar to the H-1 visa, and applies only to nationalities covered by NAFTA.
If you or a loved one is planning to come to the US, please be sure to contact an immigration attorney who can advise you on the visa type that is most ideal for you. Call experienced Morris County immigration attorney, Susan Scheer of New Jersey periodically disseminates pertinent information and provides reliable legal counsel to all.