A visa is an official document that allows a person to legally enter a foreign country like the United States. It is usually stamped or glued into the bearer’s passport.
There are two types of visa, immigrant and non-immigrant visa.
An immigrant visa is for a noncitizen who plans to live permanently in the United
Immigrant visas include:
Immediate Relative & Family Sponsored Visas
Immediate Relative Visas are based on a close family relationship with a United States citizen.
IR1 is for the spouse of a U.S. citizen.
IR2 is for the unmarried child (under 21 years of age) of a U.S. citizen.
IR3 is for the orphan adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen.
IR4 is for the orphan to be adopted in the United States by a U.S. citizen.
IR5 is for the parent of a U.S. citizen (who is at least 21 years old)
Family Preference Visas are for more distant, family relationships with a U.S. citizen and some specified relationships with an LPR .
Family First Preference (F1) Visas are for unmarried sons and daughters and their minor children.
Family Second Preference (F2) Visas are for the spouses, minor children, and unmarried sons and daughters (age 21 and over) of LPRs.
Family Third Preference (F3) Visas are for married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children.
Family Fourth Preference (F4) Visas are for brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens, and their spouses and minor children, provided the U.S. citizens are at least 21 years of age.
ii. Employer Sponsored – Employment Visas
Employment based immigrant visas are divided into five preference categories.
Employment First Preference (E1): Priority Worker and Persons of Extraordinary Ability
Employment Second Preference (E2): Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability
Employment Third Preference (E3): Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers (Other Workers)
Employment Fourth Preference (E4): Certain Special Immigrants
Employment Fifth Preference (E5): Immigrant Investors
iii. Diversity Immigrant Visa; and
iv. Returning Resident Visa
In contrast, a non-immigrant visa is a temporary document that allows a person to visit the US, and live or work there for a maximum period of time.
There are different types of non-immigrant visa. They are:
Visitor Visas are for persons who want to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1 Visa), for tourism (B-2 Visa), or for a combination of both purposes (B-1/B-2).
Student Visas are for people planning to study in the United States on their chosen level (F Visa) or in vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions (M Visa).
The Exchange Visitor program is an opportunity for outside citizens to enter the United States for an enriching learning experience. Workers who have gone through the exchange program are highly sought after by employers for the perspective and education they received overseas.
A J-1 Visa is meant for visitors who plan on participating in a cultural exchange program while teaching or demonstrating a skill that is unique to them.
On the other hand, a Q-1 Visa also requires the visitor to participate in a cultural exchange program. But unlike J-1, they will be sharing the culture, traditions, and history of their home.
The main difference between the Q1 visa and the J-1 visa is that the programs for the J-1 visa are administered by the U.S Department of State, while the Q1 visa programs are administered by USCIS.
Temporary Worker Visas are for persons who want to work in the United States for a fixed period of time.
The H-1B Visa allows professionals to work temporarily in the United States that relates to their specialization or special skill.
The H-2A Visa permits a foreign national to enter the United States to work in agriculture.
The H-2B Visa permits business owners to hire foreign workers to work in a non-agricultural field.
The H-3 Visa allows foreign nationals to receive training in any field of endeavor or special education.
The L1 Visa allows you to transfer from a company in your foreign country into its US branch, subsidiary, affiliate, or parent company.
There are two types of L1 Visas:
L1A Visa – L1 visa for Managers and Executives
L1B Visa – L1 visa for Specialized Knowledge staff
The O Visa allows people who have extraordinary ability in Arts, Science, Business, Education, or Athletics to enter the United states.
The P1 Visa is issued to internationally recognized athletes, entertainment groups, performers, and cultural coaches.
The P1 visa is divided in two categories:
P1A Visa is for internationally recognized athletes or athletic teams.
P1B Visa is for individuals or members of an internationally recognized entertainment group.
The R1 Visa is for religious workers who want to work in a religious organization in the United States for a maximum period of 5 years.
The I Visa is for representatives of foreign media and journalists part of the press, film, radio, or print industries, who are visiting the US to work or participate in educational media activities.
The Treaty Trader (E-1) or Treaty Investor (E-2) visa is for citizens of a country with which the United States maintains a treaty of commerce and navigation who wishes to travel to the United States to carry on substantial trade or invest a substantial amount of capital.
Diplomatic and Official Visas (A, G, and NATO) are for people who are members of a foreign government or an international organization that has an official business in the United States.
There are three types of Diplomatic and Official Visas:
A Visa is for Diplomats, Consular Officers, Public Ministers, Ambassadors, and their families.
G Visa is for officials and employees of international organizations visiting for official duties.
NATO Visa is for military and civilian personnel with official assignments in accordance with the provisions of the NATO Status-of-Forces Agreement.
T visa is for victims of human trafficking who have severe trauma, but can also assist in investigating crimes related to human trafficking.
U Visa is for those who have been a victim of certain criminal activities and that can aid in the investigation or prosecution of those criminals.
A Transit Visa is a permit to enter the US and stay for a layover. There are different types of transit visa:
C1 Visa allows non-US citizens passing through the US on a layover on their way to their final destination.
C2 Visa allows non-US citizens traveling to the United Nations (U.N) Headquarters in New York City or United Nations officials transiting through the US to go to a final destination.
C3 Visa is for foreign government officials and members of their families entering the United States by transit to another country.
The intention of your travel and other facts will determine what type of visa is given to you.
As a visa applicant, you will need to meet all requirements to receive the visa for which you are applying.
When you apply at a U.S embassy or consulate, a consular officer will determine based on laws, whether you are eligible to receive a visa, and if so, which visa category is appropriate.