Types of Visas and Their Requirements

What is a Visa?

A U.S. visa is a form of documentation that allows you to travel to a port of entry, airport, or land border crossing and request permission from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to enter the United States. This document goes inside the traveler’s passport and is issued by the traveler’s country of citizenship. These are used for citizens of foreign countries who seek to enter the United States in whatever way. Working with an experienced immigration lawyer will help determine which visa is best for you or your family and what to expect next. 

How Do I Use a Visa?

A United States visa doesn’t automatically guarantee entry into the United States. It does show that a consular officer at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad has determined you are eligible to seek entry for that specific purpose. These officers usually are in charge of the nation’s borders and are responsible for traveler admission to and from the United States. 

What Types of Visas Are There?

There are two main types of visas. The first is called a “nonimmigrant visa”, and the second is called an “immigrant visa.” Nonimmigrant visas are typically for travel to the United States on a temporary basis. Immigrant visas are for travel to live permanently in the United States. 

Multiple categories fall into each of the two types of visas. You can find them all on the United States Department of State website, which explains which visas fall into what category and so forth. 

Some categories could include but are not limited to: 

  • Athlete
  • Business visitor
  • Foreign government official
  • Domestic employee
  • Media, journalist
  • Student: academic, vocational
  • Tourism, vacation, pleasure visitor
  • Victim of criminal activity, human trafficking
  • Immediate family and relative support
  • Employer-sponsored

An experienced immigration attorney can help you review these categories and determine which is best for your case and situation. 

What is Required of an Immigrant Visa?

For an immigrant visa, one must intend to live and work permanently in the United States. A relative or employer will typically help the said individual file an application with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If you are an investor or other specific employee, you may be able to petition on your behalf. After the application gets forwarded, an intending immigrant must present the immigrant visa at a U.S. port of entry prior to the expiration of the immigrant visa. The intending immigrant will become a lawful permanent resident once the visa, paperwork, and other documentation are reviewed and approved. 

Some, not all, required documents one may need to get an immigrant visa would include:

  • Passport
  • DS-260/261 Parts 1 and 2
  • Birth Certificate
  • NBI Clearance 
  • Police Certificates
  • Marriage Records (if applicable)
  • Military Records (if applicable)
  • Supporting Evidence of Identity and/or Relationship

What is Required of a Nonimmigrant Visa?

For a nonimmigrant visa, one must be looking to enter the United States for only a temporary period of time. This could be due to tourism, business, medical treatment, or other types of temporary work. Depending on the type of visit will determine what type of nonimmigrant visa one is provided. It is defined by immigration law and related to the purpose of travel. To go about this process, one would typically apply to the U.S. consulate or embassy abroad for a tourist (B-2) or business nonimmigrant (B-1) visa. If the traveler seeks study or work, it may require additional documentation and authorization before entry. Again, these visas do not guarantee entry into the United States, but the U.S. Embassy or Consulate officers have deemed you eligible to enter the country. 

Some, not all, required documents one may need to get a nonimmigrant visa would include:

  • Online nonimmigrant DS-160 application form
  • Valid passport
  • One photograph
  • Receipt proving payment of $185 for a nonimmigrant U.S. visa application
  • Social media details

What is Visa Free Travel?

Visa Free travel is a U.S. policy that allows some citizens of other countries to enter the United States without a visa. The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) permits nationals from designated countries to apply for admission to the United States for 90 days or less as a visitor. At the time of the application, one must have all necessary documentation, including designated carrier, machine-readable passport, completed Arrival/Departure Form 1-94W, and processed fee. One important thing to note is that travelers who are a part of the Visa Free Travel Program cannot request to file an application to change their status to an immigrant or nonimmigrant classification visa or extend their stay past the 90-day time frame. 

We Want to Represent You

We understand how confusing it can be to look at and research all of the different visas. It’s hard to figure out which would be best for your situation with all of the different visa requirements and classifications involved. Working with an experienced immigration lawyer can help determine which visa is appropriate and best for your needs. Listening and connecting to our clients is what strengthens our practice. To learn more about any field of immigration, how to get a visa, which one is best for you, and how to set up a Free Case Evaluation, contact an experienced immigration attorney at Gilliam Law Firm today by calling 866-641-7517.


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