Last Updated: May 22, 2022
American Visa Types
The US is one of the most popular destinations for both tourists and immigrants alike. People travel to this place either for higher education or for the employment opportunities that the country provides. Those who are not residents of the country will most often have to get a visa based on the purpose of their visit and their nationality.
The visas provided by the US will be in the form of a stamp which will be present on the passport of the candidate. While candidates from most countries will require a visa, there are a few visa waiver countries whose citizens will only require an ESTA that is issued by the US Customs and Borders Protection. The visa application procedures in this country are entirely dependent on the category of visa one has applied for and the candidate’s nationality.
Candidates that Do Not Require a US Visa
Candidates from certain countries do not require a visa if they are visiting the country for tourism or business purposes. They will be able to stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days only. These countries include-
Candidates who are citizens of any of the visa waiver countries will have to have an e-passport with which they will have to get an ESTA. They will also have to prove that they will return to their country before the period is over.
Popular Types of US Visas
The most popular visa categories include student visas, temporary work visas, tourist visas, employer-sponsored visas, and family-sponsored visas. These are all non-immigrant visas that are applied for by foreign nationals.
Candidates who wish to enter the US for educational purposes will have to take either an F visa or an M visa based on the type of institution they are attending. These visas are listed under the non-immigrant category. The Visa Waiver Program will not be applicable for student visas since the duration of the stay will be longer than stipulated and since they will not be traveling to the US as a visitor apart from if they are taking a non-credit course while being a tourist in the country.
The details of the student visas are as follows-
- F1 Visa- The F visa is the most popular visa among international students since it has to be taken by candidates who are going to attend a university, college, high school, private elementary school, conservatory, or other academic institutions.
- F2 Visa- This is a visa for the immediate family of F1 visa holders. The dependents of these visa holders will be able to apply for this visa especially if the candidate is taking up doctoral programs in the country.
- M1 Visa- This visa has to be taken by candidates who are attending a vocational or non-academic institution for an educational program that is not a language training program.
- M2 Visa- This visa is provided to the immediate family of the M1 visa holders which will include only their spouses and their unmarried minor children.
The cost of applying for this visa is $160 with additional charges for issuance of the visa based on one’s nationality.
Candidates who wish to visit the US for business purposes or for visiting the country will have to take either the B1 visa or the B2 visa. Those who intend to visit as a tourist but also do business will be able to take a B1/B2 visa, as well. This is only if the said candidate does not belong to a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program.
Candidates who come from countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program will only require an ESTA approval that is valid. These candidates will be able to stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days after which they will have to return to their own country.
- B1 Visa- This visa is provided to people who wish to visit the country briefly for business purposes. Candidates who wish to meet business associates, attend educational or professional conferences, settle estates, or even negotiate contracts will be able to take this visa.
- B2 Visa- This visa is provided to candidates who are not citizens from countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program as long as they intend to be a tourist in the country. They will be able to be on a holiday in the country, meet close contacts, get healthcare, or enroll in a non-credit program while on this visa.
The cost of applying for this visa is $160 with additional charges for issuance of the visa based on one’s nationality.
Temporary Work Visas
Candidates who wish to work in the US but are not eligible for an immigrant visa will have to apply for one of the Temporary worker visas that are issued under the non-immigrant category. The visa will have a set duration based on the nature of their profession and the category of the temporary visa they are taking. Temporary worker visas, as the name suggests, are not permanent visas in any way and will have to be renewed by the candidate from time to time before they get expired. This visa can only be applied for by the candidate if their prospective employer has filed a petition with the USCIS.
The visas include-
- H-1B- This visa is for the category of people working in a specialty occupation. Candidates will require high educational qualifications or work experience.
- H-1B1- This visa is for citizens from Chile and Singapore and comes under the category of Free Trade Agreement Professional visa. Like the H-1B visa, it is for people who are doing a specialty occupation and requires candidates to have studied for at least 4 years in their field of study.
- H-2A- This visa is for Temporary Agricultural Workers and is issued only to people from specific countries based on the interest the US has in the country.
- H-2B- This visa is for Temporary Non-Agricultural workers and like the previous visa, is issued only to people from specific countries based on the interest the US has in the country. This can include any type of seasonal or temporary work except that of agriculture.
- H-3- This visa is for people who wish to train themselves in non-medical and non-academic fields. Preference is given to candidates who do not have the same program in their home country and to those who wish to take training for special education.
- L- This visa is provided to people who are intracompany transferees. If the candidate has been working for 1 continuous year under their employer in a foreign country and if the employer wants them to work at one of their other organizations in the US in a managerial position, they will be able to apply for this visa.
- O1- The O visa is provided to people who are extraordinary in their field or ability. It is also provided based on the achievements made by the candidate. If such candidates wish to work in the country within their field of expertise, they will be able to apply for this visa. This visa has
- O-2- This visa is provided to those who assist O-1 visa holders in their field of work.
- O-3- This visa is provided to people who are dependents of the O-1 visa holders.
- P-1- The P-1 visa is provided to people who are athletes or part of an entertainment group. They will be allowed to apply for this visa if they have to participate in the competition either individually or as part of their team. These candidates are supposed to be internationally acclaimed to be able to get the visa.
- P-2- This visa is provided to artists and entertainers who have to perform in the country as part of an exchange program with another country.
- P-3- This visa is also provided for artists and entertainers with the added requirement of them having to perform or teach a culturally unique art form.
The cost of applying for this visa is $190. Candidates will also have to pay an issuance fee based on their nationality.
In most cases, foreign nationals who come to the US as students and scholars will be able to be accompanied by a close relation of theirs. This close relation or their dependent will be the candidate’s spouse or their unmarried child who is below the age of 21. The candidate will be able to apply for their visa along with their visa application. They will also have to pay an additional visa fee for their dependent. The dependent visas issued include-
- F2 Visa- Candidates who are issued an F1 visa will be able to bring dependents by applying for an F2 visa which will expire only along with the F1 visa. These dependents will be able to take part-time educational programs at the degree level or full-time programs until the secondary school level but they will not be allowed to work in the country.
- J2 Visa- Candidates will be able to issue a J2 visa if they are owners of a J1 visa. It will expire only along with the J1 visa and is based on the submission of the DS-2019 Form. Candidates will have to show additional financial statements to prove that the dependent's expenses will be covered during their stay here. Dependents who have the J2 visa will be able to work in the country under specific conditions.
- H4 Visa- Candidates who have an H1B visa will be able to bring dependents under the H4 visa by submitting the I-539 application. Dependents under this visa will be able to study in the country.
The Employer-Sponsored Visas or E visas are provided to those people who are citizens of countries that have a treaty of commerce and navigation. The E visas include-
- E1/Employment First Preference- This visa is provided to Priority Workers which can include people with exceptional talent in the fields of sciences, art, education, business, & athletics, professors and researchers who are stellar in their field, and multinational managers/executives.
- E2/Employment Second Preference- This visa is provided to Professionals Holding Advanced Degrees and Persons of Exceptional Ability. These candidates will be required to have a labor certification that has been accepted by the Department of Labor along with a job offer. A professional holding an advanced degree would imply people with a degree beyond the baccalaureate or people with a baccalaureate alone with over 5 years of experience in their field. Those with exceptional ability would include people within the fields of business, sciences, and art with a degree that is not ordinary for their field.
- E3/Employment Third Preference- This visa is provided to Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Unskilled Workers where the applicant should have a pre-approved Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker, Form I-140 along with approved labor certification.
- E4/Employment Fourth Preference- This visa is provided to Certain Special Immigrants where the applicant should have an approved Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant, Form I-360. There are 19 subgroups for this category of visa and this includes ministers of religion, certain foreign medical graduates, certain broadcasters in the US, etc.
- E5/Employment Fifth Preference- This visa is provided to Immigrant Investors where they can do capital investments in the US in enterprises that can provide job opportunities.
US citizens and permanent residents who can prove that they have substantial assets will be able to bring their immediate families to the country. They will be able to bring their immediate relatives(IR) which include their spouse, child, or parent and they will also be able to bring people based on family preference where the relationship can be distant though these visas are very specific. In such cases, the applicant will have to sponsor the person they are bringing. The visas include-
- IR1- This visa is for the unmarried children of US citizens along with their minor children.
- IR2- This visa is provided to the spouses, minor children, and unmarried children of permanent citizens in the country.
- IR3- This visa is provided to the married children of US citizens along with their spouses and minor children.
- IR4- This visa is provided to the siblings of US citizens along with their spouses and children.
- F1A- This visa is for the spouses and unmarried children of green-card holders. The children here have to be below the age of 21.
- F2B- This visa is for unmarried children of green-card holders who are above the age of 21.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the different types of visas issued by the US?
The two main categories of visas issued in the US are called immigrant and non-immigrant visas. Most of the visas that are offered to foreign nationals fall under the non-immigrant visa category which includes student visas, tourist visas, and even temporary work visas.
How are the H1B and H4 visas different?
The H1B visas are for candidates who have a degree in their field of study and wish to work in the US. These candidates will have to get a job offer within their field of expertise to get a visa. On the other hand, the H4 visa is provided to the immediate family of H1B, H2A, H2B, and H3 visa holders. These are dependent visas that will allow people to study in the country and even open a bank account.
Is having a US visa enough to enter the country?
Technically, No. Having a US visa does not guarantee that the candidate will be allowed to enter the country. The visa will allow the candidate to reach the port-of-entry to the US where the Department of Homeland Security US Customs and Border Protection officers will authorize or deny their entry into the country.
What is the time taken for processing a US visa?
The time for processing a US visa depends on the type of visa one has applied for. It is also dependent on the nationality of the candidate. But generally, a non-immigrant visa will be processed between 2 to 4 weeks.
Can one renew their US visa?
While immigrant visas are permanent, non-immigrant visas have to be renewed before the expiry date of the visa if one wishes to stay in the country. For renewing the visa, they will have to apply for the visa from scratch. They will also have to pay the visa fee for the same.