While there are numerous types of visas allowing foreigners to enter the United States, there are two main categories: Nonimmigrant visas, for temporary visits such as for tourism, business, work or study purposes and Immigrant visas, for people who wish to make the U.S. their new home.
Foreign nationals who only temporarily wish to stay in the U.S. may apply for one of the many Nonimmigrant visas:
- For example, visitors can obtain a B type visa (B-1 for Business and B-2 for leisure traveling).
- Temporary workers have various visa options allowing them to hold a job in the U.S. H type visas permit various types of employees, from specialized professionals to agricultural workers to enter the U.S. and work for an American employer.
- Managers or Executives of multinational companies and Specialized knowledge personnel can be transferred to the U.S. via the L type visa.
- Athletes, entertainers, religious workers, to name a few, have dedicated visa types to their fields granting them access to American soil.
Under NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) certain Canadian and Mexican professionals can obtain a TN visa and practice their profession in the U.S. Certain foreign nationals, members of countries that have signed treaties with the U.S., who wish to conduct business or invest on a temporary basis, may obtain an E type visa (E-1 for treaty traders, E-2 for treaty investors).
Finally, students can apply for the F or M type visas depending on the program they wish to enrol in.
Foreign national who wish to permanently establish their residence in the U.S. have to apply to one of the existing Immigrant visa categories to obtain permanent residence status, more commonly known as a Green card.
- Immigrant visas are family, employment or investment based. An American citizen, or permanent resident in some cases, can petition for a family member, such as a spouse, fiancé or child to obtain a Green card. It is worth mentioning that certain types of visas in this category are often subject to quotas and long processing delays depending on the priority level attributed by the immigration authorities.
- Employment based Immigrant visas require an American employer to sponsor the foreign employee who will apply for an EB type visa. However, priority categories are set within this type of immigration. In certain classifications, there may be a waiting period of several years before a priority date is reached and an Immigrant visa can be issued.
- Investment based Immigration to the U.S. is channeled through the EB-5 Investor Program. Foreign nationals who make an investment of USD $500,000 in an American enterprise and create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified workers are eligible to obtain a Green card.
To conclude, it is interesting to keep in mind that certain Nonimmigrant visas offer the possibility of being transformed into permanent immigration options. Therefore, a foreign national can enter the U.S. on a temporary basis and later decide to make this country their new home.