When visiting the United States, or coming to the U.S. to study or work for a limited period of time, you will have to apply for a temporary or nonimmigrant visa. Visitors of the United States can either obtain a non-immigrant visa for a temporary stay or an immigrant visa for a permanent stay in the United States. Visitors can also acquire visas for business related stays, tourism, or pleasure.
Applying for a Temporary Visa
Before September 2002, the agency that was charged with overseeing immigration issues was the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). In September 2002, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Homeland Security Act, transferring the powers of the INS to the Department of Homeland Security. The immigration service functions of the INS are now placed under the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Most Common Types of Nonimmigrant or Temporary Visas
- B-1 – Business visitors
- F-1 – Students to study in the United States
- F-2 – F-1 visa holder’s immediate family members
- H1-B – Workers in specialized occupations
- I – Members of the foreign press
- J-I – People in an exchange program recognized by the U.S. Department of State
- T-1 – Victims of Human and/or sex trafficking
If you come from certain countries, you may be permitted to enter the United States without having to go through all the regular visa application procedures. This is referred to as a visa waiver.
Some criteria for getting a visa waiver are:
- You must be coming to the United States for 90 days or less
- You must be a citizen of a visa waiver country
- You must have a valid passport
- Often, you are required to provide a round trip ticket with your return date
- You must fill out certain forms from the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
Strict Time Limits for Temporary Visas
Whatever temporary or nonimmigrant visa you seek, you will be subject to a maximum length of stay in the United States. Because these visas are issued for a limited length of stay in the United States, if the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly the Immigration and Naturalization Service) have reason to believe you intend on staying beyond that period, they may revoke your temporary visa.
Appointment Wait Time for Temporary Visas
In order to obtain any kind of visa, you must schedule an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S Embassy or Consulate of your country or at any U.S Embassy or Consulate. The best place to schedule an appointment for a visa interview would be in the country of your permanent stay. Appointment wait times vary by location, season, and the type of visa that you are obtaining. You should set up your visa appointment at the earliest convenience if you do not want your trip delayed.
Should I Consult an Immigration Attorney?
There are so many different types of visas available, and very detailed procedural rules for each visa type. An immigration attorney can help you determine which visa is most suitable for you. An immigration lawyer can also assist you with the BCIS rules and regulations specific to each visa. Additionally, an immigration attorney can inform you of whether you will be eligible for a visa waiver.