Any foreign citizen who wishes to enter the United States must obtain a Visa. It could be a Non-immigrant Visa for temporary stay or immigrant Visa for permanent stay. Indians have to take a non-immigrant Visa to be eligible for entry to the United States.
Non-immigrant Visa is used by business people, tourists, specialty works, students who wish to stay in the U.S. for a temporary period to accomplish specific purposes. Those availing the non-immigrant Visa must demonstrate to the consular officer that they intend to leave the U.S after their temporary stay.
Common types of U.S. Visas
The most common types of Visas offered are as follows:
- Tourist or business Visa
There are two types of Visas offered under this tourist or business Visa. They are:
- B-1 for business associates, those attending scientific, educational, business conventions, settling an estate or to negotiate contracts.
- B-2 for pleasure or for medical treatment. This includes tourism, visiting friends and family, medical treatment, social or service activities.
Most often the two types are combined and issued as one Visa. You have to prove to the consular officer that the purpose for you to travel to the U.S. is for a limited period and that it is temporary and you have to show the evidence of funds to cover your expenses while you are in the U.S. You must also show that you have residence outside the U.S. that you have to return to. While you are on a visitor Visa you are not permitted to accept employment in the U.S.
In order to work in the U.S. on a temporary basis, you need a specific Visa based on the type of work that you will be doing. Applicants of H, L, O, P and Q will have to get their petition approved on their behalf by USCIS. Form I-129 must be approved before applying for work Visa at the Consulate. After which the employer will receive Form I-797 that serves as your petition's approval notification. While giving your interview at the Consulate, you will have to bring I-129 and copy of Form I-797.
Visas offered for work are as follows:
- H1-B for Specialty occupation
To qualify for the H1-B Visa you must hold a Bachelor's degree in specific specialty and USCIS will determine if your employment constitutes a specialty occupation and if you are qualified to perform the service. Employer is required to file labor condition application with the Department of Labor regarding the terms and condition of the contract of employment with you.
- H-2A for Seasonal agricultural workers
This Visa is allows U.S. employers to bring foreign nationals to fill the temporary agricultural job for which U.S. workers are not available. Employer must file Form I-129 petition on your behalf. Indians are not eligible for this Visa.
- H2-B for skilled and unskilled workers
This Visa is granted to those filling up a temporary or a seasonal job for which there is a shortage of U.S. workers. Indians are not eligible for this Visa.
- H-3 for trainees
This is required if you are coming to the U.S. to receive training in any field from an employer for a period of up to 2 years. You can be paid for the training but it cannot be used to provide productive employment.
- H-4 for dependents
If you are a holder of a valid H Visa, then your spouses and unmarried children under the ages of 21 may receive H-4 Visa so that they can accompany you to the U.S. But your spouse and children who hold this Visa are not permitted to work in the U.S.
- L-1 for intra company transferees
This Visa is required if you are an employee of an international company and if it is transferring you on temporary basis to the parent branch or an affiliate or a subsidiary of the company. To qualify for this Visa you must be at a managerial or executive level and he or she must have specialised knowledge in the position that you are destined to hold in the U.S. Company. You must be employed with the international company continuously for one year within the 3 years preceding the application for admission to the U.S.
- L-2 for dependents
If you are a holder of a valid L Visa, your spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may receive L-2 Visa to enter the U.S. If your spouse wishes to seek employment in the U.S. they will have to submit a completed Form I-765 with the application fee. Your children will not be authorised to work in the United States.
- Type O Visa
This type of Visa is offered to those with extraordinary ability in the science, education, arts, business and athletics or extraordinary achievement in motion picture and television production.
- Type P Visa
This Visa is offered to athletes, entertainer's artist and essential support personnel who come to perform in the United States.
- Type Q Visa
This Visa is required if you are travelling to participate in international cultural exchange program in the U.S. for the purpose of providing training, employment, sharing history culture and traditions of your home country. The petition must be filed by the sponsor and is to be approved by USCIS.
Foreign citizens who come to study in the U.S. are required to be accepted by the school or program. Once they have been accepted, they will be given necessary approval documents to submit while applying for the student Visa. The students can apply for the Visa in 120 days from the start date of I-20 and they can travel within 30 days from the start of I-20. Visas offered for students are:
- F-1 Visa
This Visa if provided to those who wish to engage in academic studies in U.S. approved schools or in approved English language program. This Visa is needed if your course is for more than 18 hours a week. This Visa is issued to students attending public secondary school. But the student is limited for 12 months at that school.
- M-1 Visa
This Visa is offered to those who are planning non-academic, vocational training or training in the U.S.
Holders of A, E, H-4, F-2, G, J-2, L-2 and M-2 or any other Nonimmigrant Visas can get them enrolled in public secondary and elementary schools.
Students who leave U.S. for a break in studies for 5 months or more may lose their F-1 or M-1 status unless their overseas activity was related to their course.
Foreign citizens can come to the United States to participate in the exchange programs. But before you apply for the Visa, you need to be accepted and approved by the authorised program sponsor. The exchange visitor gets a J Visa that is designed to promote interchange of knowledge and skills in various fields. Participants can be:
- Students at academic levels
- Research scholars
- Professional trainees
- Visitors coming for travel, consultation, research purposes, etc.
There are two types of Visa offered for transit or ship crew. They are:
- Transit C Visa
This Visa is offered to citizen of a foreign country who is traveling to another country via the United States. If the traveller wishes to visit his friends or family then he has to seek layover privileges. He or she must qualify to obtain B-2 Visa.
- Crew D Visa
This Visa is offered to a crew member who is serving on a sea vessel or aircraft. The crew members generally use the combination of transit or crew Visa that is C-1 or D. if the crew member is serving on board a vessel within the Outer Continental Shelf, then he or she is qualified for a modified B-1 Visa instead of a crew Visa. Crew members who are entering U.S. during time off between flights or cruises must obtain B-1 or B-2 Visa.
R type Visa is offered to those who wish to work in a religious capacity in the U.S. on a temporary basis. The religious worker includes persons who are authorised by a recognised entity to conduct religious activities.
Personal or domestic servants who accompany their employer to the U.S. are eligible for B-1 Visa. The domestic employees include:
- Mother' helpers
- Paid companions
The domestic servants of a foreign diplomat or a government official is eligible for an A-3 or a G-5 Visa.
Media I Visa is offered to a nonimmigrant who represents a foreign media to travel to the United States for a temporary period to engage in their profession but they must have a home office in a foreign country.
However a visitor's Visa is offered to the foreign citizen if he or she is travelling for the following purposes:
- Attending a conference or a meeting
- Guest lecture
- Engaging in academic activities
- Purchasing media equipment
Temporary work Visa is offered if the foreign citizen is traveling for the following activities:
- To film material for commercial entertainment or for advertising
- Proofreaders, librarians and set designers
- Staged events, television and quiz shows
- To produce artistic media content
Spouses and children under the ages of 21 are allowed to accompany the principal Visa holder under the B-2 Visa.
Various Visa offered for the different travel purposes
Following is a list of the type of Visas that you required for the various purposes for a non-immigrants visit to the United States:
|A||Foreign government officials and diplomats|
|A1, G-1, NATO1-6||Visa renewals|
|A-2, NATO1-6||Military personnel of a foreign country stationed in the U.S.|
Amateur and professional athletes who are competing for prize money
Nannies or domestic employees
Visitors for medical treatment
Tourists, vacationers and pleasure visitors
|BCC||Mexican Border Crossing Card|
|C||Transit in the U.S.|
Crew members serving on aircrafts
Crew members serving on sea vessels
|E-3||Australian professionals and specialty workers|
|F-1||Language and academic students|
|F-2||Dependents of F-1 Visa holders|
|G1- G5, NATO||Designated international organisation’s employees and NATO|
Chilean FTA (Free Trade Agreement) professionals
Singaporean FTA (Free Trade Agreement) professionals
|H1-B||Physicians and highly specialised occupations requiring specific industry knowledge|
|H2-A||Temporary workers for seasonal agriculture|
|H2-B||Temporary workers for non-agricultural professions|
|H3||Primarily non-employment training programs|
|H1-C||Nurses travelling to areas that has shortage of healthcare professionals|
|I||Information media representatives and journalists|
International cultural exchange visitors
Au-pairs exchange visitors
Professors, scholars and teachers as exchange visitors
|J-2||Children under the ages of 21/ Spouse of J-1 holder|
|L||Intra company transferees|
|M-2||Dependent of M-1 holder|
|O-1||Foreign nationals possessing excellent knowledge and abilities in the fields of art, science, education, athletics or business|
|P||Entertainers, artists and athletes|
|Q||International cultural exchange visitors|
|TN/TD||Mexican and Canadian NAFTA professional workers|
|T-1||Human trafficking victims|
|U-1||Victims of crime, criminal activity|