What is a visa?

A visa differs from a passport in that it acts as an endorsement placed on a passport that grants the holder permission to enter, exit, or stay in the United States (U.S.) for a specified period of time.

Who needs a visa?

Whether a person is entering the U.S. temporarily or permanently, they are required to have a visa if they are not a citizen. The type of visa a person applies for will depend on the purpose of their trip, and they are generally classified into two categories: nonimmigrant visas and immigrant Visas.

What happens if a person doesn’t have a visa?

If a person enters the country without a visa, she/he could be detained in an immigration center and deported back to their country of origin.

Which nonimmigrant visas exist?

A nonimmigrant visa is issued to a traveler with permanent residence outside of the U.S., but wishes to be in the country on a temporary basis.

  • B-1 Business Visitor: A person may be eligible for a B-1 visa if they plan to participate in business activities in the U.S. such as selling an estate, negotiating a contract or participating in training.
  • J Exchange Visitor: Those who wish to participate in a visitor exchange program in the U.S. are required to obtain a J visa. Examples: teachers, physicians and professors.
  • B-2 tourism: Those wishing to travel to the U.S. will require a B-2 visa. It can also be used for medical treatment and for enrolling in short recreational classes.
  • R-1 Religious Worker: A R-1 visa is for those who wish to enter the U.S. for temporary work in religious capacities. There are a number of requirements of a R-1 visa holders that include working at least 20 hours a week and be a member of the same religion as the organization they plan to work for.
  • V Nonimmigrant Visa for Spouses of Lawful Permanent Resident: This is a temporary visa for spouses and children under 21 of U.S. citizens. A V visa allows for permanent U.S residents to be united as a family while the immigration process takes its course.
  • F/M Student Visa: A student wishing to study in the U.S. is required to have either an F or M visa. To attend a university, high school or private elementary school you will need an F visa while vocational or other recognized non-academic institutions requires an M visa.

Which immigrant visas exist?

An immigrant visa is issued to individuals who wish to live permanently in the U.S. Those wanting to do so are usually required to be sponsored by a U.S citizen, lawful permanent resident or U.S employer.

  • K-1 Fiancé/e: This visa is classified as an immigrant visa but is considered a nonimmigrant visa by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This visa allows for a foreign fiancé/e to travel to the U.S. to marry their American fiancé/e within 90 days of arrival.
  • K-2 Child of a Fiancé/e: This visa is considered a nonimmigrant visa. This visa is used as a way to keep a child or children united with their parent when they move to another country. Once the parent is married, the child will be required to file a separate application to register as a permanent resident.
  • K-3 Spouse: This visa is classified as an immigrant visa but because it is used for immigrant-related purposes it is considered a nonimmigrant visa. The K-3 visa allows for a foreign spouse to be reunited with their U.S spouse while they await processing for permanent residence.
  • Employment-Based Immigrant Visa: An employment-based immigrant visa is divided into five categories: (1) Priority workers, (2) professionals holding advanced degrees/persons of exceptional ability, (3) professionals and other workers, (4) employment creation/investors and (5) certain special immigrants.
  • SB Returning Resident: This visa is for permanent residents or conditional residents who lived outside of the U.S. for longer than a year and they wish to return.

Other types of visas:

  • E-1/E-2 Treaty Traders/Investors: Applies to nationals of countries with whom the U.S. has a treaty of trade and friendship.
  • H-1B Specialty Occupations: A person can file for professional worker visas provided for under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In order to be approved, an applicant for this visa must have at least an equivalent of the university degree and the job for which the visa is requested must require the university degree or its equivalent. The applicant must also have a sponsoring U.S. employer who will be his/her temporary employer. In addition, the employer must pay the applicant the required salary and file the petition with immigration.
  • L-1A Intracompany Transfer / L-1B Intracompany Specialized: This can apply to executives, managers and employees with proprietary knowledge of the company’s offerings.
  • Spouse (K-4) Visa: It applies to any minor children of the foreign spouse who is seeking K-3 visa.
  • Family based visas: https://riveraybujosalaw.com/immigration/family-immigration/
  • VAWA: https://riveraybujosalaw.com/immigration/vawa/
  • H-2B Visa: The H-2B visa allows business owners to hire foreigners to work as seasonal workers in high season on an intermittent basis or one-time occasion. Business owners must prove that there are no workers available to do the job in the U.S. Applicants need a sponsor willing to pay the required salary.

What is the process for obtaining a visa?

The visa a person is applying for will determine the process as well as the processing time. A temporary nonimmigrant visa could take up to a few weeks or months, while an immigrant visa can take years to get approved.

The process of applying for a nonimmigrant visa varies depending on the U.S embassy or consulate the person is applying to. In general, the person will be required to do the following:

  • Complete the nonimmigrant visa application form, form DS-160
  • Submit a photo
  • Pay the visa application fee
  • Schedule an interview

In order to be eligible to apply for an immigrant visa, the sponsor is responsible for initiating the immigration process by filing a petition on the foreign citizen’s behalf with the USCIS. The immigrant visa process will also go through the following steps:

  • Sponsor submits a petition;
  • Once the petition is approved, begin National Visa Center (NVC) processing;
  • Choose an agent from the NVS;
  • Pay fees;
  • Submit visa application form;
  • Collect financial documents;
  • Collect supporting documents;
  • Submit documents to the NVC;
  • Complete medical exam
  • Attend an interview with the U.S embassy or consulate

Following the immigration visa interview, the applicant will be informed on whether or not their visa application is approved or denied. Once approved, the applicant will be notified and a passport with the visa will be returned.