Introduction

Artists, Entertainers and Culture Workers

Athletes

Border Crossing Card Holders

Citizens of Visa Waiver Program Countries

Crewmembers (Pilots, Captains, Other Staff)

Cultural Exchange Visitors

Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials

Diversity Immigrants

Domestic Employees, Servants and Nannies

Entrepreneurs and Business People

Employees/Members of International Organizations

Exchange Visitors and Au Pair

Family Members of LPRs

Family Members of U.S. Citizens

Foreign Military Personnel

FTA Professionals

Intra-Company Transferees

Iraqis and Afghans Who Worked for the U.S. Government

Journalists and Media People

Law Enforcement Witnesses and Informants

NAFTA Professionals

NATO Personnel

Orphan Children Adopted by U.S. Citizens

Patients of U.S. Medical Facilities

Physicians and Doctors

Professional and Priority Workers

Religious Workers

Returning Residents

Software Engineers and Programmers

Temporary Workers

Tourists and Pleasure Visitors

Trainees and Special Education Exchange Visitors

Treaty Traders and Investors

Transiting the U.S.

Scientists, Professors, Scholars and Researchers

Students/Vocational Students

Victims of Criminal Activity and Human Trafficking

Conclusion

Resources

 

Introduction

Every year millions of foreign nationals come to visit, work and live in the United States. Known as a nation of immigrants, the U.S. is a top destination for international migrants (with about 1,5 million coming to stay legally). About 80 million tourists and pleasure visitors per year enter the country, too.

 

To enter the U.S., nationals of most countries (and in most cases) need to obtain a visa first. If you don't know which one to choose for your profession/purpose of travel, this ultimate list will help. Just use the contents section above to navigate the page.

Artists, Entertainers and Culture Workers

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

P-1

Nonimmigrant / dual intent Perform at a specific athletic competition for entertainment purposes, for prizes or money, as an athlete (visa issued up to 5 years) or a member of a team

Sponsor needed

Issued for 1 year

P-2

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Artists and entertainers who visit the U.S. under the terms of a reciprocal exchange program between U.S. and foreign organizations; service workers or individuals who support artists and entertainers

Sponsor needed

Issued for duration of event but not to exceed 1 year

P-3

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Artists and entertainers who come to the U.S. individually or in a group for performance purposes; service workers are also eligible to receive the visa

 Sponsor needed

Issued for duration of event but not to exceed 1 year

P-4

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Dependents of P-2 and P-3 visa holders

 P-2/P-3 visa holder needed

Issued for duration of event but not to exceed 1 year

B-2

Nonimmigrant

Amateur artists and entertainers who are willing to perform without payment from a U.S.-based source (social events and charity)

 Up to six months presence in the US; can be extended up to 6 more months

Issued for 1 to 10 years

VWP

Nonimmigrant

Individuals who are nationals of the Visa Waiver Program countries

Up to 90 days presence in the US
 O-1A Nonimmigrant / dual intent Individuals who have an extraordinary ability or achievement in the fields of science, education, business and mathematics

Sponsor needed

Initial visa is issued for 3 years

O-1B

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Individuals who have an extraordinary ability or achievement in the arts, TV, motion picture

Sponsor needed

Initial visa is issued for 3 years

O-2

(A&B)

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Individuals who assist O-1B holders and which services are essential to O-1B’s ability to perform

Initial visa is issued for 3 years (period of stay of O-1 visa holder)

O-3

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Spouses and children of O-1B and O-2 holders

O-1/O-2 visa holder needed

Initial visa is issued for 3 years

Artists (plus their bands), entertainers and culture workers come to perform in the United States with P-2 and P-3 temporary worker visas every year. Individuals with an extraordinary ability or achievement in the arts, motion picture and TV are subject to “O” category visas. Their assistants, spouses and children are free to temporarily enter the United States as well.

Athletes

Visa

Status

Issued To

 Notes

B-1

Nonimmigrant

Professional athletes who do not qualify for “P” and “O” category visas and are ready to take part in a sporting event without receiving any salary or any form of remuneration from a U.S.-based source

Up to six months presence in the US; can be extended up to 6 more months

Issued for 1 to 10 years

B-2

Nonimmigrant

Amateur athletes who are not members of any professional sports associations and willing to perform without any remuneration from a U.S.-based source

sUp to six months presence in the US; can be extended up to 6 more months


Issued for 1 to 10 year

 

H-1B

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Professional athletes, coaches and coaching staff

Sponsor needed

Initial visa is issued for 3 years; renewable for 3 more years

 

H-2B

Nonimmigrant

Individuals and team athletes who are hired by U.S.-based teams by a tendered contract (DOL Certificate needed)

Sponsor needed

Initial visa is issued for 3 years

 

P-1

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Individuals and team athletes with a high level of performance on a global scale; members of their entertainment and support groups

Sponsor needed

Issued for 1 year

O-1A

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Individual who demonstrate an extraordinary ability in sports

 Sponsor needed

Initial visa is issued for 3 years

The United States is a regular in hosting multiple tournaments and sporting events. Obviously, foreign athletes should be able to take part in them. In most cases, they can rely on P-1, B-1 and O-1A visas but B-2, H-1B and H-2B are also a viable option especially if an individual does not qualify for the aforementioned types of temporary worker visas.

Border Crossing Card Holders

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

BCC

Nonimmigrant

Citizens and residents of Mexico who are applicable for B-1 and B-2 visas and demonstrate strong ties to Mexico

Allows up to 30 days of stay in United States

B-1

Nonimmigrant

Citizens and residents of Mexico (BCC/B-1)

Valid for travel until the expiration date of the BCC

B-2

Nonimmigrant

Citizens and residents of Mexico (BCC/B-2)

Valid for travel until the expiration date of the BCC 

The Border Crossing Card (BCC) is pretty similar to B-1/B-2 visas but is issued only to the citizens of residents of Mexico. To receive the card, an applicant should comply to the eligibility standards for the aforementioned visas. The card is usually issued for ten years and is valid until expiration.

Citizens of Visa Waiver Program Countries

VWP Status

Status

Issued To

Notes

WB

Nonimmigrant

Nationals of certain countries that are going to enter the U.S. for business purposes, not exceeding the 90-day stay

Up to 90 days presence in the US

WT

Nonimmigrant

Nationals of certain countries that are going to enter the U.S. to travel, not exceeding the 90-day stay

Up to 90 days presence in the US

GB/GT

Nonimmigrant

Nationals of countries that participated in Guam Visa Waiver Program

Up to 15 to 45 days presence in the US

The Visa Waiver Program allows nationals of 35 countries that participate in the program to enter the United States for business and pleasure purposes without having to obtain a visa. Only 90 days of stay is allowed per year. Visitors are not allowed to do business or receive any remuneration from U.S.-based sources.

Crewmembers (Pilots, Captains, Other Staff)

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

D1

Nonimmigrant

Crew members who serve aboard a ship or an aircraft in the United States (except fishing ships based in the U.S.); U.S. stay up to 29 days

Up to 29 days presence in the US

D2

Nonimmigrant

Crew members who serve aboard a ship with a home port based in the United States and are due to visit Guam; U.S. stay up to 6 months

Up to six months presence in the US

C1

Nonimmigrant

Crew members who need to enter the U.S. to transit to the vessel based in the United States

Issued up to 29 days

C1/D

Nonimmigrant

Individuals working on vessels and airlines and need to enter the U.S. to join their crew; a combination visa

Issued up to 29 days

B-1

Nonimmigrant

Individuals who work in dry docks or provide services on yachts cruising the U.S. waters over 29 days

Up to six months presence in the US; can be extended up to 6 more months

Issued for 1 to 10 years

B-2

Nonimmigrant

Crew members and their dependants to stay in the U.S. for a holiday after termination of the employment period

Up to six months presence in the US; can be extended up to 6 more months

Issued for 1 to 10 years

C1/D is the most common type of the crewmember visa. Variations are also an option, though. Certain staff members, such as dry dock workers, should apply for specific visas or receive H1-B visa in under warranty. If any vessel is to enter the U.S. waters for more than 29 days, its crew should receive crewmember visas, too.

Cultural Exchange Visitors

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

J-1

Nonimmigrant

Individuals who administer cultural exchange programs or are willing to share international cultures in the U.S.; supported by the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs

Sponsor needed

Length of visa depends on the program

J-2

Nonimmigrant

Dependants of J-1 Visa holders

 J-1 visa holder needed

Q-1

Nonimmigrant

Individuals who plan to enter the U.S. to share the cultural attributes of their countries; supported by USCIS

Sponsor needed

Up to 15 months maximum

Q-3

Nonimmigrant

Spouses and dependents of Q-1 Visa holders

Q-1 visa holder needed

Foreign citizens who are going to share their culture, history and traditions in the United States, can enter and temporarily stay in the country using J-1 and Q-1 visas. J-1 visa is more generic and covers not only exchange visitors but also scholars and professors who promote cultural exchange. Q-1 is more specific and prioritizes practical training and employment of those who participate in cultural exchange programs.

Diplomats and Foreign Government Officials

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

A-1

Nonimmigrant

Higher rank diplomats: Head of State/Government, ambassadors, ministers, consular officers; their family members and dependants

Valid as long as the Secretary of State recognizes its holder as a member of the diplomatic community

A-2

Nonimmigrant

Certain government officials, embassy and consulate employees, service and technical staff; military personnel not related to NATO; representatives of the EU and African Union; their family members and dependants

No maximum limit on the duration of stay

A-3

Nonimmigrant

Attendants and servants of A-1/A-2 Visa holders

A-1/A-2 visa holder needed

A-1 or A-2 visa can be issued to any diplomat or foreign government official who enter the U.S. on behalf of their home country. A-1 visa is the only visa that can be issued to Head of State or Head of Government regardless of their purpose of visiting the United States. Other officials qualify for specific visas depending on their purpose of travel.

Diversity Immigrants

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

DV1

Immigrant

Holder of the Diversity Immigrant Visa

Expires upon entry to the US

DV2

Immigrant

Spouse of the DV visa holder

Expires upon entry to the US

DV3

Immigrant

Children of the DV visa holder

DV1 holder needed

Expires upon entry to the US

Diversity immigrants are eligible to receive a United States Permanent Resident Card as soon they enter the country. Designed to diversify immigrant population in the United States, the Diversity Immigrant Visa brings about 50,000 green card lottery winners to come to stay in the country every year. For over a decade, there have been several attempts to eliminate the lottery, but, as of April 2017, it is still a viable option for immigration to the U.S.

Domestic Employees and Servants

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

B-1

Nonimmigrant

Individuals who follow or are going to join their employer in the U.S.; purpose of travel in visa annotation

Sponsor needed

Allowed duration of stay is generally up to one year

Can be extended up to 6 more months

A-3

Nonimmigrant

Attendants and servants of diplomats and foreign government officials who hold A-1/A-2 visas.

 A-1/A-2 visa holder needed

G-5

Nonimmigrant

Attendants, servants and personal employees of G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-4 visa holders; their family members

 G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-4 visa holders needed

B-1 is a visa of choice for those who are going to enter the United States as domestic employees or servants: nannies, housemaids, gardeners, etc. No one has the right to bring workforce to the U.S. without a visa.

Entrepreneurs and Business People

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

VWP

Nonimmigrant

Nationals of the VWP countries who plan to enter the U.S. to consult with business associates, take part in business conference or negotiations, attend a business training course; doing business for profit is not allowed

Up to 90 days presence in the US

F-1/OPT

Nonimmigrant

U.S.-based students with F-1 visa who are going to start a business related to their major area of study

Allowed to work in the US for up to one year; a 17-month or 24-month extension for STEM

B-1

Nonimmigrant

Individuals who are going to visit the U.S. to raise or secure funding, take part in contract negotiations or business meetings

The maximum length of stay is up to 6 months; can be extended up to 6 more months

H-1B

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Individuals who possess specialized knowledge and are willing to start a business in the related field; may hire themselves in the U.S.

Initially issued for three years and can then be extended for another three years

H-1B Chile

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Nationals of Chile with specialty occupation who are going to start a related business in the United States

Initially issued up to 3 years; renewable for 3 more years

H-1B Singapore

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Nationals of Singapore with specialty occupation who are going to start a related business in the United States

Initially issued up to 3 years; renewable for 3 more years

L-1

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Intracompany transferees (executives, managers, specialty workers)

Initially issued for three years and can then be extended for another two years

E-2

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Nationals of Treaty Countries who plan to invest in a new or existing company in the United States

Up to five years presence in the US; initially issued for two year

E-3

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Nationals of Australia with specialty occupation who plan to start a business related to their specialty in the U.S.

Initially issued for two years and can then be extended for another two

O-1A

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Individuals in an extraordinary ability in business, recognized on the international level

Sponsor needed

Initial visa is issued for 3 years

EB-1

Immigrant

Individuals with an extraordinary ability in business who have international acclaim and can prove that they are going to work in the area of their ability

Not required to have a permanent offer of employment in the US

EB-2

Immigrant

Individuals with an exceptional ability in business; advanced degree professionals

 Sponsor needed

EB-5

Immigrant

Individuals who have a detailed business strategy and are ready to invest at least $1,000,000, or at least $500,000 in targeted employment areas

 Investment in a for-profit enterprise needed

The United States is one of the best countries for doing business, and established or prospective company owners can either enter or immigrate to the country in many ways. The list of visas above is complete as of April 21, 2017. To learn more about the terms of obtaining a particular visa or visa status, please visit U.S Department of State website.

Employees/Members of International Organizations

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

G-1

Nonimmigrant

Permanent members of international organizations, representing governments that are recognized by the U.S.

Valid for as long as the holder remains in the employ of the   international organization

G-2

Nonimmigrant

Representatives of recognized governments who are going to enter the U.S. to take part in negotiations or conferences hosted by an international organization

Valid for as long as the holder provides services to the international organization; not allowed to work

G-3

Nonimmigrant

Representatives of governments that are not recognized by the U.S.

Valid for as long as the holder provides services to the international organization; not allowed to work

G-4

Nonimmigrant

Individuals who are going to enter the U.S. in order to take an appointment at the international organization

Valid for as long as the holder remains in the employ of the  international organization and does not leave the United States

G-5

Nonimmigrant

Domestic employees, attendants and servants of G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-4 visa holders

G-1, G-2, G-3 and G-4 visa holder needed

G visas are issued to members, employees and attendees of international organizations that are either located or hold meetings or conferences in the United States. Diplomats or other government officials should obtain a G visa in case they work for internationals organizations and want to visit the country to carry out official duties.

Exchange Visitors and Au Pair

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

J-1

Nonimmigrant

Individuals who enter the U.S. to exchange their professional, educational and cultural background; Au Pair and Summer Work and Travel

Sponsor needed

Length of visa depends on the program

J-2

Nonimmigrant

Dependants of J-1 visa holders

J-1 visa holder needed 

Q-1

Nonimmigrant

Individuals who are going to participate in international cultural exchange programs to share their history, culture and traditions

Sponsor needed

Up to 15 months maximum

 

There are 14 major exchange categories and four pilot exchange programs for nationals of Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and South Korea. Most of them, including Au Pair and Summer Work Travel participants, are covered by J-1 visa. Please, consult The U.S. Department of State to learn more about every exchange category in detail.

Family Members of LPRs

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

V

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Individuals whose family member with the Lawful Permanent Resident status resides in the U.S and had filed Form I-130 before December 21, 2000

No longer issued

F2

Immigrant

Spouses, minor children, unmarried children age 21 and over of Lawful Permanent Residents

Valid stay in the US as long as the principal F-1 visa holder maintains valid status

Lawful Permanent Visitors, also known as Green Card holders, can bring their immediate relatives to live in the United States. V visas are no longer issued by The U.S. Department of State; over 114,000 F2 visas are issued every year.

Family Members of U.S. Citizens

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

IR-1

Immigrant

Spouses of U.S. citizens

10-year validity

Issued for those who have been married longer than two years

IR-2

Immigrant

Unmarried children of U.S. citizens, under 21 years of age

Sponsor needed

Obtain a U.S. residency upon entry

 

IR-3

Immigrant

Orphans adopted by U.S. citizens in foreign countries

 Sponsor needed

Obtain a U.S. residency upon entry

IR-4

Immigrant

Orphans that are going to be adopted by U.S. citizens

 Sponsor needed

Obtain an LPR status upon entry

IR-5

Immigrant

Parents of U.S. citizens who are 21 years of age or older

 Sponsor needed

Obtain an LPR status upon entry

F1*

Immigrant

Children (unmarried) and minor children of U.S. citizens

Sponsor needed

Obtain an LPR status upon entry

F3

Immigrant

Married children of U.S. citizens, their spouses and minor children

 Sponsor needed

Obtain an LPR status upon entry

F4

Immigrant

Brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, their spouses and minor children

 Sponsor needed

Obtain an LPR status upon entr

CR2

Immigrant

Unmarried children of a foreign spouse or fiancee under 21 years of age of U.S. citizens

 Sponsor needed

Obtain an LPR status upon entry

Family-based immigration to the United States is mostly covered by two visa categories: IR — immediate relative; F — family preference. IR visas are not limited by The U.S. Department of State, while only the limited number of F visas can be obtained each year.

Note! Don’t confuse with F-1.

Fiance(e)s/Spouses of U.S. Citizens

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

K-1

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreign-citizen fiance(e)s who are to enter the U.S. to marry U.S. citizens

Must marry US Citizen within 90 days of arrival

K-2

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Dependants (eligible children) of K-1 visa holder

K-1 visa holder needed

Valid as long as K-1 visa holder status is valid

K-3

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Spouses of U.S. citizens; already married abroad and eligible to enter the U.S.

 Initially issued for two years; can be renewed for two years

IR-1

Immigrant

Spouses of U.S. citizens

 10-year validity

Issued for those who have been married longer than two years

CR-1

Immigrant

Spouses of U.S. citizens who can enter the country as a Conditional Resident

 Issued for those who have been married less than two years

Fiance(e)s of U.S. citizens are mostly covered by K-1 visa. A petitioner has to marry a K-1 visa holder within 90 days of entry. K-1 visa allows its holder to obtain a Green Card after marriage and is considered a nonimmigrant visa with preferences. Spouses are covered by IR1/CR1 visas.

Foreign Military Personnel

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

A-2

Nonimmigrant

Foreign military personnel who travel or present in the U.S. on behalf of their governments and are due to engage in official activities

Valid stay as long as the Secretary of State recognizes its holder as a member of the diplomatic community

A-3

Nonimmigrant

Domestic employees and servants of A-2 visa holders; not renewed in the U.S.

A-2 visa holder needed

NATO 1-6

Nonimmigrant

NATO military personnel; NATO officials and their immediate relatives

Valid for the duration of the individual's stay in the US

NATO-7

Nonimmigrant

Domestic employees and servants of NATO 1-6 visa holders; not renewed in the U.S.

NATO 1-6 visa holder needed

Foreign military personnel should enter the United States as foreign diplomats and government officials. NATO personnel have obtain specific NATO visas. A-2 and NATO 1-6 visas can be renewed without having to leave the U.S.

FTA Professionals

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

H-1B Chile

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Chile nationals with valuable specialty occupation hired by a U.S.-based employer

Initially issued up to 3 years; renewable for 3 more years

H-1B Singapore

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Singapore nationals with valuable specialty occupation hired by a U.S.-based employer

Initially issued up to 3 years; renewable for 3 more years

H-4

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Dependants of H-1B visa holders

H-1B visa holder needed

Singapore and Chile entered The Free Trade Agreement with the United States on January 1, 2004. Since then, nationals of these countries enjoy preferential terms when applying for H-1B visa. A total of 6,800 visas are reserved yearly for nationals of Singapore (5,400) and Chile (1,400).

Intra-Company Transferees

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

L-1A

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Executives and managers who are transferred to a U.S.-based office to conduct supervisory activities

Sponsor needed

Initially granted for 3 years, unless it is to open an office in which case it is 1 year

L-1B

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Specialized workers who possess deep knowledge of a company’s systems, processes, technologies, products and services, and are transferred to a U.S.-based office

 Sponsor needed

Initially granted for 3 years, unless it is to open an office in which case it is 1 year

L-2

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Dependants of L-1 visa holders

 L-1 visa holder needed

EB-1C

immigrant

U.S.-based managers and executives who meet L-1A visa standards and demonstrate high value to the U.S.

Not required to have a permanent offer of employment in the US

Intracompany transferees are free to enter the United States under L-1 visa. In order to obtain this visa though, a transferee should demonstrate specialized knowledge and value to a company’s branch he or she is transferred to. L-1A visa is a great first step to receive a permanent resident status with EB-1C.

Iraqis and Afghans Who Worked for the U.S. Government

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

SIV

Immigrant

Afghans and Iraqis who were provided services or were employed by the U.S. Government or the ISAF

Receive LPR status upon admission into the US

SI/SQ

Immigrant

Afghan and Iraqi translators and interpreters who qualify to obtain an LPR status in the U.S.

Receive LPR status upon admission into the US

SIV and SI/SQ programs are mostly terminated. Afghan and Iraqi nationals have already exhausted the initial number of allocated visas. Thus, interviews for SI/SQ categories will not be scheduled after March 1, 2017.

Journalists and Media People

Visa

Status

Issued To

 Notes

I

Nonimmigrant

Journalists and foreign media persons who enter the U.S. to solely engage in their professional activities

Issued up to 1 year

Cannot enter under the VWP status to work

Journalists and media persons are common visitors to the United States. If their purpose of travel is related to journalism, they should obtain I visa before traveling to the country. Yet, their purpose is research, lecture, conference, academic activity or any other, they should consider applying for a different type of a visa

Law Enforcement Witnesses and Informants

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

S-5

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who act as witnesses or informants of crime or criminal organizations and should enter the U.S. for investigation or prosecution purposes

Issued up to 3 years

S-6

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who act as witnesses or informants as to criminal organization activities and have to travel the U.S. in order to be protected by the U.S. officials

Issued up to 3 years

S-7

Nonimmigrant

Dependents, including spouses, minor and older children, and parents of S-5 and S-6 visa holders

S-5/S-6 visa holder needed

Visas for law enforcement witnesses and informants were created in response to 9/11 terrorist attacks. Only 200 and 50 individuals may obtain S-5 and S-6 visas, respectively. Holders of S-5 cannot change their status; S-6 visa holders can become LPRs if substantially contribute to prevention of terrorist attacks.

NAFTA Professionals

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

TN

Nonimmigrant

Citizens of Canada and Mexico who qualify for the TN status under the NAFTA Treaty

Sponsor needed to provide offer of employment

Can apply at the border upon entry

Issued up to 3 years

TD

Nonimmigrant

Dependents of TN visa holders

TN visa holder needed

Under the North American Trade Agreement, citizens of Canada and Mexico can obtain temporary worker visas for professionals (up to three years; renewed) on preferential terms. Entering the country for business activity purposes is also allowed. TD visa holders don’t obtain authorization to work in the U.S.

NATO Personnel

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

NATO-1

Nonimmigrant

Permanent representative of NATO and their immediate relatives traveling to the U.S. solely on NATO-related business

Valid for the duration of the individual's stay in the US

NATO-2

Nonimmigrant

Temporary representatives of NATO: advisors, subsidiaries, technical staff; military personnel; their families

Valid for the duration of the individual's stay in the US

NATO-3

Nonimmigrant

Official clerical staff of NATO representatives; their family members

Valid for the duration of the individual's stay in the US

NATO-4

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who serve NATO; their family members

Valid for the duration of the individual's stay in the US

NATO-5

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who provide expert services to NATo and recognized as NATO experts; their family members

Valid for the duration of the individual's stay in the US

NATO-6

Nonimmigrant

Civilian workers who serve NATO; their family members

Valid for the duration of the individual's stay in the US

NATO-7

Nonimmigrant

Domestic employees and servants of NATO 1-6 visa holders

NATO 1-6 visa holder needed

NATO personnel enjoy preferential terms when entering the United States, especially holders of NATO-1 visa. They can enter the country without having to engage in immigration inspections. Their document requirements are rather specific as well.

Orphan Children Adopted by U.S. Citizens

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

IR-2

Immigrant

Foreign nationals who are children under 21 years of age who come to the U.S. to be adopted; or, over 21 years of age if covered by the Child Status Protection Act

Sponsor needed

Obtain a U.S. residency upon entry

IR-3

Immigrant

Foreign nationals who are children and whose adoption by a U.S. citizen has been finished in their native country

 Obtain a U.S. residency upon entry

IR-4

Immigrant

Foreign nationals who are children and come to the U.S. to be adopted

 Obtain an LPR status upon entry

IH-3

Immigrant

Nationals of Hague Convention countries who are children and whose adoption by a U.S. citizen has been finished in their native country

Obtain a U.S. residency upon entry 

IH-4

Immigrant

Nationals of Hague Convention countries who are children and come to the U.S. to be adopted

 Obtain an LPR status upon entry

IR-3/IH-3 are for children under 18 years of age. Holders of these visas obtain a U.S. residency upon arrival. Holders of IR-4/IH-4 visas do not obtain a citizenship but a permanent resident status. IR-2 are for older children, unmarried and, in most cases, under 21 years of age.

Patients of U.S. Medical Facilities

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

B-2

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who need to travel to the U.S. to receive medical treatment not available in their native country

Up to six months presence in the US; can be extended up to 6 more months

Issued for 1 to 10 years

B-2 is a visa for pleasure visitors, and yet it covers foreign nationals who need to receive medical treatment in the United States, too. To obtain B-2 medical visa, an applicant should prove that medical treatment he or she needs is not available in the country of origin.

Physicians and Doctors

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

H-1B

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreign physicians who have a full-time offer from a U.S.-based employer, have a medical degree and a license, completed the FLEX examination

Initially issued up to 3 years; renewable for 3 more years

O-1A

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreign physicians with an extraordinary ability in medicine

Sponsor needed

Initial visa is issued for 3 years

TN/TD

Nonimmigrant

Nationals of Canada and Mexico who are physicians ans are willing to do medical research or teach in the U.S.

Sponsor needed to provide offer of employment

Can apply at the border upon entry

Issued up to 3 years

J-1

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who are physicians and want to obtain medical training within the U.S.

 Sponsor needed

Length of visa depends on the program

E-2

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreign physicians who are willing to enter the U.S. to invest in a particular U.S.-based enterprise

 Up to five years presence in the US; initially issued for two years

Foreign doctors who want to practice medicine and provide patient care should prioritize H-1B visa. Physicians who are into theory and research should focus on O and J visas. E-2 is for investors. O-1A visa is the best option for immigration and change of status to LPR.

Professional and Priority Workers

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

EB-1

Immigrant

Foreign nationals who qualify as priority workers and possess an extraordinary ability in their field of occupation, research, business, etc.

Not required to have a permanent offer of employment in the US

EB-2

Immigrant

Foreign professionals whose knowledge and service are of value to the U.S. and are sought by U.S.-based employers

Sponsor needed

EB-3

Immigrant

Foreign nationals who qualify as skilled workers and priority professionals and have a sponsoring employer, proven professional backlog of 6-12 years

Sponsor needed

H-1B

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreign nationals who qualify as holders of specialty occupations and secure sponsorship from a U.S.-based employer

Initially issued up to 3 years; renewable for 3 more years

E-2

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreign nationals who are non-investor employees of the business that is created through investment and whose specialized skills are vital to its management

Up to five years presence in the US; initially issued for two years

E-3

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Nationals of Australia who possess specialty occupations and are sponsored by a U.S.-based employer

Initially issued for two years and can then be extended for another two

C5/EB-5

Immigrant

Foreign investors who invest in the enterprise not covered by a targeted investment area

Investment in a for-profit enterprise needed

T5/EB-5

Immigrant

Foreign investors who invest in the enterprise located in a targeted investment area

Investment in a for-profit enterprise needed

R5/EB-5

Immigrant

Foreign investors who take part in the Investor Pilot Program outside of a targeted investment area

Investment in a for-profit enterprise needed

I5/EB-5

Immigrant

Foreign investors who take part in the Investor Pilot Program in a targeted investment area

Investment in a for-profit enterprise needed

Professionals and priority workers have a high chance of obtaining temporary worker and immigrant visas. There are several investment options as well. H-1B is a visa of preference for professionals with specialty occupations.

Religious Workers

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

R-1

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who are willing to travel to the U.S. to serve as ministers

Maximum duration of stay is 30 months

R-2

Nonimmigrant

Dependents of R-1 visa holders (spouses and children)

R-1 visa holder needed

SD

Immigrant

Foreign nationals who act as Ministers of Religion and are willing to enter the U.S. to solely serve as ministers

Obtain an LPR status upon entry to the US

SR

Immigrant

Foreign nationals who act as Certain Religious Workers and enter the U.S. to serve in a religious occupation

Obtain an LPR status upon entry to the US

Religious workers can enter the United States using R, Sd and SR visas. R is a temporary religious worker visa that allows staying in the country for up to 30 months. SD/SD allow holders and their family members to obtain a permanent resident status.

Returning Residents

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

SB-1

Immigrant

Lawful permanent residents who remained outside of the U.S. for more than a year and want to resume their LPR status

Not needed if you been outside the US for less than one year or before the expiration of the re-entry permit

Holders of a Green Card, also known as lawful permanent residents or conditional residents, cannot leave the United States for more than a year. If they do so without a Re-entry Permit, they have to receive SB-1 visa to enter the country. In case they remain outside of the U.S. beyond the period covered by the Re-entry Permit, SB-1 visa is also a must.

Software Engineers and Programmers

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

H-1B

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreign nationals who have specialty-level computer occupations and can prove his or her ability, knowledge, expertise

Initially issued up to 3 years; renewable for 3 more years

L-1

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreign nationals who are executives or managers of software companies to be transferred to a U.S.-based branch

Sponsor needed

Initially issued for three years and can then be extended for another two years

E-1/E-2

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreign nationals of the Treaty countries who are IT professionals with specialized knowledge

 Up to five years presence in the US; initially issued for two years

O-1A

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreign nationals who possess an extraordinary ability in computer science and software development

Sponsor needed

Initial visa is issued for 3 years

TN/TD

Nonimmigrant

Software engineers and holders of other computer positions who are nationals of Canada and Mexico and secured U.S.-based sponsorship

Sponsor needed to provide offer of employment

Can apply at the border upon entry

Issued up to 3 years

Foreign nationals with computer occupations are highly sought by U.S. employers. If you are an IT professional, you have a high chance of entering the United States. Prioritize H-1B visa; yet, other options are also available. H-1B is a nonimmigrant visa but allows for a change of status.

Temporary Workers

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

H-1A

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nurses who come to the U.S. under the Nursing Relief Act; currently expired

No longer issued

H-1B

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreign nationals who have specialty occupation in the fields of interest to the U.S.-based employers; sponsored employment

Sponsor needed

Initially issued up to 3 years; renewable for 3 more years

H-1B1

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Nationals of Singapore and Chile with specialty occupations; sponsored employment

Sponsor needed

Initially issued up to 3 years and can be renewed 

H-1C

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who are nurses and seek temporary employment in the U.S. medical facilities; currently expired

 No longer issued

H-2A

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who are looking for seasonal agricultural work in the U.S.

Up to 10 months presence in the US 

H-2B

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who seek temporary employment as laborers and non-specialty workers

 Up to one year presence in the US

H-2R

Nonimmigrant

Dependents of H-2B visa holders and applicants

 H-2B visa holder needed

H-3

Nonimmigrant

Trainees and special education exchange visitors who are eligible to travel the U.S. in order to receive training not available in their native country

 Up to two years presence in the US

H-4

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Dependents of H-3 visa holders and applicants

H-3 visa holder needed 

EB-3

Immigrant

Foreign skilled workers and professionals who enter the U.S. for temporary work but qualify for employment-based permanent residency

 Sponsor needed

Several million seasonal and temporary workers come to the United States every year. These are both skilled and unskilled workforce sought by U.S.-based employers who act as sponsors of their employment. Self-petition is not allowed.

Tourists and Pleasure Visitors

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

B-2

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who are willing to travel the U.S. for pleasure (tourism, sightseeing, etc.)

Up to six months presence in the US; can be extended up to 6 more months

Issued for 1 to 10 years

B-2 is one of the most commonly issued U.S. visas, and it’s no wonder why. Every year around 80 million international travelers visit the country. Nationals of visa exempt countries can enter the United States without having to obtain a visa, though.

Trainees and Special Education Exchange Visitors

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

H-3

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who are willing to enter the U.S. to receive training or take part in special education exchange program that is not available in the country of origin

Up to two years presence in the US

Trainees and special education exchange visitors come to the United States to receive particular training that cannot be obtained in their country of origin; not for employment purposes. A limited number of visas is allowed.

Treaty Traders and Investors

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

E-1

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreigners who are willing to act as investors and are nationals of E-1 Treaty Trader countries

Up to five years presence in the US; initially issued for two years

E-2

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Foreign nationals who can travel and work in the U.S. based on an investment in the U.S. economy that they control

Up to five years presence in the US; initially issued for two years

EB-5

Immigrant

Foreign nationals who are willing to invest into the U.S. economy and obtain a Green Card for this considerable investment

Investment in a for-profit enterprise needed

Being a country of entrepreneurs and business people, the United States allow the so-called “investor immigration” under EB-5 visa. Also, nationals of E-1 Treaty Trader countries can temporarily work and live in the country.

Transiting the U.S.

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

C-1

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who are willing to enter the U.S. for the purpose of transit to a foreign country

Up to 29 days stay in the U

C-2

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals and United Nations officials who enter the U.S. to transit to or from the U.N. headquarters to a foreign country

Valid for the duration of the individual's stay at the United Nations

C-3

Nonimmigrant

Foreign governments officials, their servants and dependents who enter the U.S. to transit to or from a foreign country

Up to 29 days stay in the US

CW-1

Nonimmigrant

Foreign temporary workers who transit the U.S. to travel to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Up to one year presence in the US

CW-2

Nonimmigrant

Dependents of CW-1 visa holders

CW-1 visa holder needed

Foreign nationals who are going to travel through the United States to enter a foreign country should receive a C visa and prove that they can fund their stay and transit in the U.S. CW visa is for travelers to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands only; the program will be terminated in 2019.

Scientists, Professors, Scholars and Researchers

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

O-1A

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Professors and scholar researchers who have demonstrated an extraordinary ability in science

Sponsor needed

Initial visa is issued for 3 years

O-2

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Individuals who should accompany O-1A visa holders/applicants and whose assistance is crucial to the results of scientific research

 Initial visa is issued for 3 years (period of stay of O-1 visa holder)

O-3

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Dependents of O-1/O-2 visa holders

 O-1/O-2 visa holder needed

H-1B

Nonimmigrant / dual intent

Professors and researchers who are subject to be employed by U.S. academic institutions and possess specialty occupations of high value

Sponsor needed

Initial visa is issued for 3 years

Renewable for 3 more years

TN/TD

Nonimmigrant

Nationals of Canada and Mexico who are subject to be employed by U.S.-based academic institutions

 Sponsor needed to provide offer of employment

Can apply at the border upon entry

Issued up to 3 years

J-1

Nonimmigrant

Foreign scientists and researchers who are going to participate in lecturing, teaching and research together with American scientists

 Sponsor needed

Length of visa depends on the progra

Any scientific advance is a product of highly-trained professionals in the field. The United States encourage immigration of professors, scholars and scientific researchers. Though most of the science-related visas are non-immigrant, they open path to permanent employment and residency.

Students/Vocational Students

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

F-1*

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who are willing to study in the United States (including language training schools); full-time students

Valid as long as its holder continues to study in the US

F-2

Nonimmigrant

Dependents of F-1 visa (spouses and minor children)

F-1 visa holder needed

F-3

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who attend a U.S.-based academic institution but regularly return to their country of origin (citizens of Canada and Mexico)

Valid only to Canadians and Mexicans who commute across the border to attend American schools

M-1

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who want to study in vocational and technical schools (excluding language training schools)

Valid stay for the length of the training program plus OPT

M-2

Nonimmigrant

Dependents of M-1 visa (spouses and minor children)

M-1 visa holder needed

M-3

Nonimmigrant

Foreign nationals who attend vocational/technical schools in the U.S. but “commute” to their country of origin

Valid only to Canadians and Mexicans who commute across the border to attend American vocational schools

J-1

Nonimmigrant

Participants of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program who have a sponsor

Sponsor needed

Length of visa depends on the program

Every year over one million students come to study in the United States. Most of them (1,043,839 students 2015-16), rely on F visa to enter the country; however, M and J-1 visas can be used enter the country as well. China, India are South Korea are top 3 countries of origin for international students.

 

Note! Don’t confuse with F1.

Victims of Criminal Activity and Human Trafficking

Visa

Status

Issued To

Notes

U-1

Nonimmigrant

Victims of crimes, physical and mental abuse who want to assist U.S. officials in the investigation and prosecution process

Up to four years presence in the US; extensions available

U-2

Nonimmigrant

Spouses of U-1 visa holders or applicants

U-1 visa holder needed

U-3

Nonimmigrant

Children of U-1 visa holder or applicants (under 21 years of age)

U-1 visa holder needed

U-4

Nonimmigrant

Parents of U-1 visa applicants (if a visa applicant is a child)

U-1 visa holder needed

T-1

Nonimmigrant

Victims of human trafficking who want to take part in the investigation and prosecution process

Up to four years presence in the US; extensions available

T-2

Nonimmigrant

Spouses of T-1 visa holders or applicants

T-1 visa holder needed

T-3

Nonimmigrant

Children of T-1 visa holders or applicants (eligible if under 21 years of age, unmarried)

T-1 visa holder needed

T-4

Nonimmigrant

Parents of T-1 visa applicants (if a visa applicant is a child)

T-1 visa holder needed

T-5

Nonimmigrant

Siblings of T-1 visa holders or applicants (eligible if under 21 years of age, unmarried)

T-1 visa holder needed

The United States keeps ward of democracy and human rights all over the globe. It’s no wonder that the country does everything it can to protect victims of abusive criminal activity and human trafficking. In 2015, the U.S. issued 507 T visas and 1708 U visas giving people a chance to start a new life in the U.S. Both visas open path to LPR status.

Conclusion

U.S. visas can be tricky. They feature many different types and categories.Though we have divided them in two main categories -- immigrant and nonimmigrant -- some visas have dual intent as well. Please, don’t forget to consult the U.S. Department of State and Bureau of Consular Affairs and file all of the necessary documents in advance to avoid problems at the port of entry.

Resources

  1. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en.html
  2. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en.html
  3. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/all-visa-categories.html
  4. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visitor.html
  5. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/study-exchange/exchange.html
  6. http://www.ustraveldocs.com/au/au-niv-typee3.asp
  7. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/border-crossing-card.html
  8. https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/cw-1-cnmi-only-transitional-worker
  9. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/other/crewmember.html
  10. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/other/diplomat-foreign-government-official.html
  11. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/other/employee-of-international-organization-nato.html
  12. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/other/foreign-military-stationed-in-the-us.html
  13. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/employment/temporary.html
  14. https://ais.usvisa-info.com/es-cl/niv/information/visa_categories
  15. http://www.ustraveldocs.com/sg/sg-niv-typeh1b1.asp
  16. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/employment/media.html
  17. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/employment/nafta.html
  18. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/other/religious.html
  19. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/study-exchange/student.html
  20. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/employment/treaty.html
  21. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/other/transit.html
  22. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/other/visas-for-victims-of-criminal-activity.html
  23. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/other/human-trafficking.html
  24. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/family/nonimmigrant-spouse-children-permanent-resident.html
  25. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/other/employee-of-international-organization-nato/renewing-a-g-nato-visas-in-u-s.html
  26. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/family/immediate-relative.html
  27. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/family/spouse-citizen.html
  28. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/family/fiance-k-1.html
  29. https://travel.state.gov/content/adoptionsabroad/en.html
  30. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/family/family-preference.html
  31. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/employment.html
  32. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/Immigrant-Investor-Visas.html
  33. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/iraqi-afghan-translator.html
  34. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/iraqis-work-for-us.html
  35. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/afghans-work-for-us.html
  36. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/diversity-visa/entry.html
  37. https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/immigrate/returning-residents.html
  38. http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/music-festivals/6539009/music-festival-statistics-graphic
  39. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Annual_sporting_events_in_the_United_States
  40. http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/mexican-immigrants-united-states
  41. http://mentalfloss.com/article/30479/10-largest-airports-world-seen-above
  42. https://j1visa.state.gov/basics/facts-and-figures/
  43. http://www.immihelp.com/business-visa/domestic-employee-visa/
  44. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iraq_and_Afghanistan_Veterans_of_America
  45. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_Afghanistan_(2001%E2%80%932014)
  46. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Au_Pair_in_America
  47. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_born_scientists_and_engineers_in_the_United_States
  48. http://www.prb.org/Publications/Articles/2011/usforeignbornstem.aspx
  49. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_tourism#United_States
  50. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicolefisher/2016/07/12/25-of-docs-are-born-outside-of-the-u-s-can-immigration-reform-solve-our-doc-shortage/#219a2b99155f
  51. https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/statistics/adoption/
  52. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adoption_in_the_United_States#International_adoption