If you are not seeking admission based on Employment or Family sponsorship, you are likely seeking to enter the United States based on one of the twenty three classes of nonimmigrant visa’s. This page gives a brief overview of the various non-immigrant categories. Please contact our office if you have specific questions on any one category or for general advice on which category to apply under.
Generally speaking, before arriving to a US port, the alien must obtain a non-immigrant visa at a US consulate. The consular officer will evaluate the aliens eligibility for admission and will specfically make the determination as to whether they believe the alien will be here on a temporary basis only. Thus, the alien should at all times be prepared to have the burden of proof to show that they will not stay in the US indefinitely or permanently.
- Category A – Foreign Government Officials
Officials or employees of certain recognized governments may apply under this category.
- Category B – Visitors
This is the most common way of entering the United States to visit. If you are coming here on business or pleasure, you will likely apply under this category. You will need to show significant ties to your home country such that the consular official is convinced that you do not intend to abandon your foreign residence and remain in the US permanently. B1 visas are for business visas (note: you are not allowed to receive a salary in the US under this visa category). B2 visas are generally used for tourists or for visiting friends and family. Note that residents of certain countries are eligible to visit without obtaining a visa under the Visa Waiver Program.
- Category C – Transit Aliens
This visa is used to allow you to transit through the United States on your way to another country. Generally, you must show that you have a ticket to the destination country, sufficient funds and permission to enter the destination country.
- Category D – Crew Members
This category is for aliens who are crew members of ships and aircrafts and need to seek entry into the United States. Note that a crew members family is not able to obtain D status and must instead apply under the B2 category.
- Category E – Treaty Traders and Investors
This is a special category of visa for aliens who need to enter the United States for the purposes of engaging in trade or investment. A valid treaty must generally exist with the destination country (with exceptions). Approximately 70 countries are eligible under this category.
- Category F – Academic Students
If you are coming to the US for academic study, you will likely apply under this category (and possibly J). Generally study must be for full time study although part-time study exceptions may exist. Your family may enter under F2 status while the student will be under F1 status.
- Category G – Representatives to International Organizations
This is a fairly unique category and is divided into five parts. Generally, if you are an employee of, or a representative of, an internation organization of a recognized foreign government, you may be eligible to apply under this category.
This is a very active category and is divided into sub categories. Generally, if you are coming to the US for employment purposes, your visa category will fall under one of the H status visas.
H-1B is for specialty occupation workers, meaning highly specialized knowledge and a job requiring a minimum of a bachelors degree. You can think of this visa as employment sponsored. That is, you cannot apply for a H-1B visa for yourself. You will need an employer/employee relationship and they will need to file significant paperwork on your behalf.
H-1C is nonimmigrant Nurses. This is to address the shortfall of Nurses in under-served areas of the United States.
H-2A is for temporary agricultural workers. Note that only aliens from a designated list of countries are eligible to participate in this visa category.
H-3 is for Trainees and is an option if you are coming to the US to take a training course in an established training program with a US Employer.
- Category I – Information Media Representatives
If you work for the media or press and need to come to the US to engage in your profession, this visa category may apply. Note that aliens involved in the production of commercial film or advertising do not qualify under this category.
- Category J – Exchange Visitors
Certain exchange visitor programs are recognized by the US and aliens may be accorded J visa status. An alien may qualify for summer work and travel programs for students and for the traditional “au pair” programs.
Aliens entering the United States to marry a US Citizen (currently their fiance) may enter under this category. The alien must marry within 90 days of entering the country.
- Category L – Intracompany Transferees
If you worked for an employer abroad for at least one year, you may be eligible to transfer to the US location of the same employer under the L visa status. The foreign employer and US employer must be part of the same organization.
- Category M – Vocational Students
In many respects, this visa category is similar to the F status, but applies to vocational and other non-academic programs. Language training is NOT part of the M status and remains under F status.
- Category O – Extraordinary Ability Entertainers, Athletes and Others
Aliens with extraordinary ability in athletics, arts, sciences and education may qualify under this category. Generally you would need to demonstrate national or international acclaim for achievement in your field.
- Category P – Entertainers and Athletes
For those alien entertainers or athletes that do no qualify for the O category, the P category may be a viable option.
- Category Q – International Cultural Exchange
Certain designated programs that provide practical training and the sharing of history, culture and traditions of the aliens home country may qualify the alien for this category.
- Category R – Ministers and Religious Workers
For temporary visits to the US as a religious worker, an Alien may qualify for the R visa.
- Category S – Aliens assisting in Law Enforcement
This is a fairly specialized visa category generally used when critical information is to be provided by the alien for a criminal investigation or prosecution.
- Category T – Victims of Trafficking
Victims of trafficking who agree to serve law enforcement in investigating or prosecuting of such trafficking may be eligible under this category.
- Category U – Victims of Violence
This is similar to the T category and is for aliens who suffered substantial physical or mental abuse and are assisting in the investigation or prosecution of the crime.