A citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must generally apply for a visa. In certain cases, some foreigners are exempt from having to obtain a visa. There are two types of visas: non-immigrant (temporary visas) and immigrant visas. Some of the most common non-immigrant visas are: visitor visas, work visas, and treaty trader/investor visas.

Visitor visas: There are two types of visitor visas: business visas (B-1) and tourist visas (B-2). The B-1 visa may be appropriate in the case where the individual wishes to travel to meet with business associates, negotiate contracts, litigate or attend a business/professional convention. An individual may be granted a B-2 visa if he/she is traveling to the United States for pleasure or medical treatment.

Work visas: There are several categories of visas for individuals who wish to work in the United States. The H-1B visas are for individuals in a specialty occupation that generally requires a bachelor’s degree. The L visa is available for foreign companies with a business presence in the U.S. who intend to transfer employees to the U.S. for a limited period of time in a managerial, executive or specialized knowledge capacity. The O-1 visa is open to individuals with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. Professionals from Mexico have the option of working in the United States as a NAFTA Professional under the TN visa. Canadian professionals also qualify as NAFTA Professionals and normally do not need to apply for a visa.

Treaty/investor visas: A national of a country which the United States holds a treaty of commerce and navigation may enter the U.S. to carry on substantial trade between the United States and the treaty country (E-1), or to develop and direct a business in which the national has invested or investing (E-2). Other available non-immigration visas are:

Visa Type Visa Description
A Diplomats and foreign government officials
C Transit aliens
D Crewmembers
F Academic students
G Employees of international organizations
I Representatives of foreign media
J Exchange visitors (Au pair, interns, physicians, professors, teacher, etc.)
K Fiancés/fiancées and spouses of U.S. citizens
M Vocational students
NATO Employees of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
P Artists/athletes/entertainers
Q International cultural exchange visitors
R Religious workers
S Aliens providing critical information to U.S. law enforcement
T Victims of human trafficking
U Victims of criminal activity
V Spouses/children of permanent residents awaiting availability of immigrant visas (only available for renewal)Diplomats and foreign government officials

Immigrant Visas

An immigrant visa is required of anyone who wishes to enter the United States to permanently reside in the country. Immigrant visas are issued in four general categories: immediate relative, family preference category, employment preference category, and the Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, commonly known as the “green card” lottery.