If you are planning a temporary visit to the United States, you will likely be required to apply for a temporary visa. There are many different types of temporary visas, and each type relates to a specific purpose. Once it is granted, the temporary visa permits the holder of the visa to enter into the United States for a specified activity, such as studying or working, until the time limit for the visa expires and the person must return to their home country. There are many nonimmigrant visas also issued to people who visit the United States for the purpose of travel, foreign exchange programs, and employment opportunities requiring a special skill that may not be abundant in the United States.

Nonimmigrant or temporary visas are divided into nineteen major categories and one special purpose category for those employed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The main categories are given letter designations. The categories of nonimmigrant visas are explained in further detail below.

Types of Temporary Visas

As stated above, there are nineteen different categories of visas, in addition to one special purpose category for NATO personnel. Each category is assigned a letter designation. The following are the classifications for temporary visas:


  • A – Diplomatic Official: To qualify for a temporary visa you must be traveling to the U.S. on behalf of your national government to engage solely in official activities for that government. Families of diplomats also obtain A-1 or A-2 visas.
  • B – Business and Pleasure: This portion of the temporary visa program makes up the majority of those issued. B-1 and B-2 temporary visas are typically valid for one year and renewable in six-month periods.
  • C – Aliens in Transit: This type of visa is issued for those people who are traveling in immediate and continuous transit through the United States en route to another country.
    • CW-1 – CNMI-Only Transitional Worker: These visa allows employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to apply for temporary permission to employ foreign (nonimmigrant) workers who are otherwise ineligible to work under other nonimmigrant worker categories.
  • D – Crew Members: These are visas issues for people working on board sea vessels or international airlines in the United States, providing services required for normal operation and intending to depart the U.S. on the same vessel or any other vessel within 29 days. You must also have a C-1 or transitional visa.
  • E – Treaty Traders and Investors: Treaty trader (E-1) and treaty investor (E-2) visas are for citizens of countries with which the U.S. maintains treaties of commerce and navigation.
  • F – Students: These are issued to students who enter the U.S to attend high school, private elementary school, college, seminary, conservatory, and any other academic institution including a language training program.
  • G – International Organization Representatives: G visas are provided to those are diplomats, government officials, and employees who will work for international organizations in the United States.
  • H – Temporary Workers: Temporary worker visas are issued to those are engaged in a specialty occupation, and they require the worker to possess a higher education degree or its equivalent. Additionally, those who are engaged in temporary or seasonal agricultural work may apply for an H-2A visa. These visas are limited to citizens or nationals of designated countries. An H-2B visa is for a non-agricultural worker who is here for a temporary period of time and also is limited to people from designated countries. A trainee or special education visitor may acquire an H-3 visa.
  • I – Foreign Media Representatives: These visas are given to people who are working temporarily in the United State as representatives of foreign media outlets, including members of foreign press, radio, film, and print industries.
  • J – Exchange Visitors: These are given to people who are coming to the U.S. as approved participants in exchange visitor programs in the U.S., including au pairs, camp counselors, interns, and research scholars.
  • M – Students in Non-Academic Institutions: These temporary visas are given to students attending vocational or other recognized nonacademic institutions, other than a language-training program. 
  • O – Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities: These visas are given to people who have an extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or extraordinary recognized achievements in the motion picture and television fields. These include people providing essential services in support of the individual with the extraordinary ability.
  • P – Entertainers: The P status for temporary visas covers performers who are athletes, entertainers or artists such as musicians, or those performing under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the U.S. and an organization in another country.
  • Q – Cultural Exchange Program Participants: Cultural exchange program participants are those who participate in practical training and employment and for sharing of the history, culture, and traditions of their home country through participation in an international cultural exchange program.
  • R – Religious Workers: These visas are issued to people who wish to enter the United States to work temporarily in religious capacities. To qualify for this visa, a person must be a member of the same religious denomination as the religious organization the person plans to work for in the U.S., coming to work as a minister or in a religious vocation or occupation in the U.S., employed by a non-profit religious organization, and work at least part-time or an average of 20 hours per week.
  • T – Victims of Human Trafficking: A person seeking this visa must already be present in the United States as a result of human trafficking. This visa is provided to allow victims of human trafficking to remain in the U.S. to assist in investigations or prosecutions of human trafficking violators.
  • U – Victim of Criminal Activity: Victims of certain kinds of criminal activities that either occurred in the U.S. or violated American laws may be eligible for a U visa. They must have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the criminal activity and possess information concerning that criminal activity. Also, the victim must have already been or is planning on aiding in an investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity to which they were subjected.
  • V – Nonimmigrant (V) Visa for Spouse and Children of a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR): This visa allows for family members to be in the U.S. with their LPR spouse or parents while waiting to complete their immigration process.
  • TN – NAFTA Professionals: This visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as professionals of NAFTA, to work in the U.S. on prearranged business activities for both U.S. and foreign employers. There are different requirements for Canadian and Mexican citizens.

Limitations on Temporary Visas   

Once you have been issued a temporary visa, you are permitted to enter the United States. However, the category of your temporary visa puts a limitation on the activities with which you can engage. For example, if you have been issued an F visa, you must be a student while you are here in the United States, and you cannot use that visa as a way to stay in the U.S. legally while working as a full-time employee for a company long after you are done with school. 

When Does My Temporary Visa Expire?

The expiration date of your visa, which is visible on the face of your visa, will vary depending on the type of temporary visa you have been issued. For example, those who are here for business and personal activities are generally permitted a one-year temporary visa status with renewal options available at six month increments. The time between visa issuance and expiration date is called your visa validity. The visa validity is the length of time you are permitted to travel to a port of entry in the United States.

While a visa may be valid for a certain period of time, possessing a valid visa does not guarantee a person’s entry into the United States. The visa expiration date shown on your visa does not disclose how long you are authorized to stay within the United States, and you may be deported at any time. Entry and the length of authorized stay within the United States are determined by the Customs and Border Protection Officer at the port-of-entry each time the person travels.

Denial of a Temporary Visa and Visa Waivers

There are certain grounds that permit the U.S. to deny the issuance of a temporary visa. People who are known to be drug abusers or addicts, drug traffickers, spies, and terrorists, as well as people who are likely to become dependent on government services are inadmissible and will not be issued a temporary visa. All of these people are also ineligible for a waiver that would allow them to obtain a temporary visa.

Other grounds for inadmissibility include possession of a communicable disease such as tuberculosis, possession of a mental or physical disorder that may lead them to cause harm to themselves or others, and a lack of proper vaccinations. People who have committed of crimes of moral turpitude, violated immigration laws, engaged in prostitution, or possess multiple criminal convictions are also included in this inadmissible list. However, contrary to the first list provided, these people may acquire a waiver  such as a Hranka waiver from the United States and may be issued a temporary visa.


Is Anyone Exempt from the Temporary Visa Requirement?


People who are exempt from the temporary visa requirements are those visiting from countries that are waived by the United States. These people may visit the United States for up to 90 days for business or personal reasons without first obtaining a temporary visa. A passport from the person’s home country, however, is always required.

As of 2015, 38 countries are included in the visa waiver program, including the United Kingdom, Denmark, Japan, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Australia, Austria, France, Germany, Greece, and Portugal.

Do I Need an Attorney to Get a Temporary Visa?

There are many different types of temporary visa categories with specific requirements and limitations. Additionally, navigating the immigration process alone can be daunting. An immigration lawyer can assist you through the complex road of immigration and visa issuance and find the temporary visa best suited for you.