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Non-Immigrant Visa Categories

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What Is a Non-Immigrant Visa?

A non-immigrant visa is a type of temporary visa issued to foreign nationals seeking to visit the U.S. for a limited amount of time. An applicant for nonimmigrant status must demonstrate that they do not intend to stay or live permanently in the United States.  Also, certain factors may exclude an applicant from receiving a non-immigrant visa (such as a criminal felony record).

The number of non-immigrant visas that are issued each year may be subject to change. Also, it the availability of non-immigrant visas sometimes depends on the applicant’s country of origin. The number of visas allowed for certain countries may be more or less depending on the number of visas issued the previous year.

What Are the Main Non-Immigrant Visa Categories?

The two main non-immigrant visa categories cover non-immigrant workers and non-immigrant exchange students. These two categories cover the largest number of non-immigrant visas issued each year. 

In general, non-immigrant workers or exchange students must be petitioned by a sponsor who will assist them in obtaining their temporary visa. For workers, this is usually their employer; for students, it is usually the educational institution that will act as a sponsor. 

The eligibility requirements and application forms for these two categories may be very different depending on the purpose and nature of the temporary visit. 

Other Non-Immigrant Visa Categories I Should Know About

Yes- while many foreign nationals are aware of the non-immigrant visa categories for employees and students, many do not realize that there are other non-immigrant categories available. 

Some of the alternative non-immigrant visas categories include:

  • Persons who represent foreign governments
  • Persons who represent the foreign press
  • Certain temporary religious workers
  • Some professionals under NAFTA treaty provisions (Mexico and Canada only)
  • Investors and traders under NAFTA treaty provisions
  • Foreign nationals receiving training not available at their home country
  • Persons who will be providing information to federal and state authorities for criminal investigation purposes
  • Internationally recognized entertainers, athletes, and their support staff

The common thread with all of these categories is that the non-immigrant is visiting the U.S. for a specific purpose. Persons who wish to visit the United States for leisure or in order to immigrate permanently must apply under different immigration categories.

In some cases a person can apply for a non-immigrant visa extension, depending on the type of category and the person’s purpose in visiting the U.S.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Non-Immigrant Visa?

It can be difficult to sort out all the different types of non-immigrant visa categories. Furthermore, each category may be associated with different requirements and characteristics. If you seek to apply for, or petition another person for a non-immigrant visa, you may wish to contact an immigration lawyer for advice. An attorney can advise you on the availability of visas for the year.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 08-06-2014 12:06 PM PDT

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