Non-immigrant visas allow you to visit, work or study in the United States temporarily for a specific period of time. You may be able to change from one non-immigrant status to another non-immigrant status. Some non-immigrant visas allow you to later become a permanent resident of the United States. The most common non-immigrant visas are described below.
Business, Investment, and Employment Visas
E-1/E-2 Treaty Traders or Investors
Treaties between the United States and certain other countries allow nationals of those countries to come here to develop and direct an investment in the United States or to conduct trade with the United States. A treaty trader must conduct “substantial” trade between the treaty country and the United States. A treaty investor must make a “substantial” investment in the United States. There is no limit on the period of stay in treaty investor or treaty trader status, as long as the investment or trade continues.
E-3 Australian Treaty Professionals
The E-3 visa classification allows professionals from Australia who have a job offer in a specialty occupation from a U.S. employer to work here. The U.S. employer must pay the prevailing wage. The employment does not have to be related to international trade or investment.
H-1B Specialty Occupations (Professionals)
The H-1B visa requires a job offer from a United States employer for a position that requires a bachelor’s degree or higher in a “specialty occupation.” Specialty occupations include positions in the fields of computer science, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine, business specialties, accounting, law, the arts, and many teaching positions. You may have the equivalent of a college degree based on a combination of education and work experience. The U.S. employer must pay the prevailing wage for the position. H-1B status is available for a total of six years.
H-1B1 Professionals from Chile or Singapore
This classification is based on free trade treaties and sets aside a certain number of H-1B1 visas for professionals from Chile and Singapore.
L-1 Intracompany Transferees
The L-1 visa allows companies to transfer executives, managers, or specialized knowledge employees to the company’s U.S. branch, subsidiary, or affiliate. The L-1 can also be used to open a new office in the United States. The employee being transferred must have been employed abroad as an executive, manager, or specialized knowledge employee for at least one year within the previous three years, and be coming to the U.S. to work in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity, but does not have to do the same work in the United States that he or she was doing abroad. Executives and managers (L-1A) are eligible to stay in the U.S. for up to seven years. Specialized knowledge employees (L-1B) are eligible to stay in the U.S. for up to five years. Executives and managers may be eligible to apply for permanent residency after one year in L-1A classification.
O-1 Extraordinary Ability Workers
This classification is for foreign nationals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, as demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim. These persons have risen to the very top in their field, and there must be extensive documentation recognizing their achievements. They must continue to work in their area of extraordinary ability in the U.S., but their work in the U.S. does not have to be at a level requiring extraordinary ability.
R-1 Religious Workers
A foreign national who for the previous two years has been a member of a religious denomination having a bona-fide nonprofit religious organization in the U.S. may work for the religious organization in the U.S. as a minister, or religious professional or worker. R-1 classification is available for up to 5 years.
TN NAFTA Professionals
Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), nationals of Canada and Mexico may come to the U.S. to engage in “business activities at a professional level” for a U.S. entity. The eligible professionals are listed in the NAFTA treaty, and include accountants, engineers, graphic designers, hotel managers, lawyers, management consultants, dietitians, occupational therapists, pharmacists, physicians, nurses, biologists, meteorologists, physicists, or teachers.
K-1 Fiancé(e) of a U.S. Citizen
This visa is for the fiancé(e) of a United States citizen. The couple must have met in person within two years before filing the fiancé(e) petition and they must intend to get married within 90 days of the K-1 beneficiary arriving in the United States. The requirement that the couple has met may be waived if a meeting would violate strict and long-established customs of the K-1 beneficiary’s culture. After the K-1 beneficiary comes to the United States and the couple gets married within 90 days as required, the K-1 beneficiary can apply for adjustment of status (lawful permanent residency). Children (unmarried, under 21) of a K-1 beneficiary may accompany or follow to join the K-1 fiancé(e). Children have K-2 classification.
K-3 Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
This visa is for the spouse of a United States citizen. K-3 beneficiaries are admitted into the United States for a period of two years to await the approval of their immigrant visa petition and apply for adjustment of status (lawful permanent residency). Children (unmarried, under 21) of a K-3 beneficiary may accompany or follow to join the K-3 spouse. Children have K-4 classification.
B-1/B-2 Visitors for business (B-1) or pleasure (B-2)
These visas permit foreign nationals to visit the United States for business or pleasure temporarily for short periods of time, but do not authorize employment in the United States. The B-1 visa allows foreign nationals to conduct business associated with international trade or commerce, such as attending meetings or conferences, and negotiating contracts. Nationals of certain countries are eligible for visa waiver, which allows them to visit the United States for 90 days without having to obtain a visa.
The F-1 visa is for students pursuing academic or language studies at a post-secondary institution on a full-time basis. Employment through optional practical training (OPT) is available for 12 months after graduating. OPT is available in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) professions for an additional 17 months for a total of 29 months of OPT.
M-1 Vocational Student
The M-1 visa is for students pursuing non-academic, vocational study.