This article briefly describes each nonimmigrant visa classification under U.S. immigration law.
E Treaty Traders and Investors: For persons engaged in international trade or investment between the U.S. and their country of nationality, provided the U.S. has an appropriate treaty with that country. (For example, no treaty exists with China or Hong Kong, but treaties with Taiwan allow for both E-1 and E-2 visas). In addition:
- E-1 (Treaty Trader): For persons coming to the U.S. to engage in trade of a substantial nature principally between the U.S. and their country of nationality. “Substantial” trade means an amount sufficient to ensure a continuous flow of trade between the two countries. If the applicant is not the principal trade, then they must be employed in a supervisory or executive capacity, or possess special qualifications that make their services essential to the operation of the enterprise. The alien employer must be an enterprise or organization at least 50% owned by persons having the nationality of the treaty country.
- E-2 (Treaty Investor): For persons coming to the U.S. to direct and develop the operations of an enterprise in which they have invested, or are actively involved in the process of investing, a substantial amount of capital. A “substantial” investment means one sufficient to ensure the investor’s financial commitment to the successful operation of the enterprise and big enough to support the likelihood that the investor will successfully direct and develop the enterprise. If the applicant is not the principal investor, they must be employed in an executive or supervisory capacity, or possess skills that are highly specialized and essential to the enterprise.
An E visa may not be denied solely because a labor certification or immigrant petition has been filed.
E-3 Certain Specialty Occupation Professionals from Australia: The E-3 classification applies only to nationals of Australia coming to the U.S. to perform services in a specialty occupation. The specialty occupation must require theoretical and practical application of a body of knowledge in professional fields and at least the attainment of a bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, as a minimum for entry into the occupation in the U.S.
H-1B Temporary Workers in Specialty Occupations: For a worker in a specialty occupation entering the U.S. temporarily. A “specialty occupation” is one requiring the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge and at a minimum a bachelor’s degree or equivalent education, training, and experience. The work may be part- or full-time. The employer must pay at least the prevailing wage (average wage paid to workers in the occupation in the geographic area) or the actual wage (wage paid by the employer to similarly qualified workers in the occupation), whichever is higher. Nonimmigrant intent is not required.
H-1B Fashion Models: For fashion models of distinguished merit and ability.
H-1B1 Free Trade Visa for Citizens of Chile and Singapore
H-1C Nurses Working in Shortage Areas: For nurses offered employment in hospitals with at least 190 acute care beds located within federally-designated health professional shortage areas (HPSAs).
H-2 Agricultural or Nonagricultural Temporary or Seasonal Labor: For skilled or unskilled workers coming to the U.S. to work for a U.S. employer. The employer’s need for such workers must be temporary. The employer must show that it has recruited without success for U.S. workers qualified and interested in the position. The foreign national must have have a residence in a foreign country which they have no intention of abandoning.
H-3 Trainees and Participants in Special Education Exchange Visitor Programs:
- For temporary workers invited by an individual or organization for purposes of receiving instruction and training. No productive employment is allowed unless it is incidental and necessary to the training. The proposed training must not be available in the worker’s home country, and the training must benefit the worker in pursuing a career abroad.
- The H-3 classification also applies to an alien coming temporarily to participate in a special education training program in the education of children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities.
The trainee must have a residence in a foreign country which he has no intention of abandoning.
I Media Representatives: For representatives of foreign press, TV, and other foreign information media and independent production companies who perform functions essential to the foreign information media function. Examples: reporters, media film crews, video tape editors, persons in similar occupations. Freelance media representatives may also qualify if under contract to a media organization.
L Intracompany Transferees: For persons employed abroad by multinational companies who are needed in the U.S. temporarily to work for the same employer (or its subsidiary or affiliate) in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge position. The employee must have worked abroad for one continuous year within the preceding three years for the employer in an executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge capacity. Nonimmigrant intent is not required.
O Aliens of Extraordinary Ability: Persons with extraordinary ability or achievement in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, as well as the artist or athlete’s support staff. The person of extraordinary ability must be coming to work in their area of extraordinary ability or achievement. Requires a written peer group advisory opinion confirming the extraordinary ability or achievement.
P Artists, Athletes & Entertainers:
- P-1 Athlete: For persons coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance.
- P-1 Entertainment Group: For persons coming temporarily to perform as members of a foreign-based entertainment group that has been recognized internationally as outstanding in the discipline for a sustained and substantial period of time. Such persons must have had a sustained and substantial relationship with the group (ordinarily for at least one year) and/or perform functions integral to the group’s performance.
- P-2 Artistic Exchange: For persons coming temporarily to perform as artists or entertainers individually or as part of a group, who will perform under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the U.S. and an organization in another country.
- P-3 Culturally Unique Artists: For persons coming temporarily to perform, teach or coach as artists or entertainers, individually or as part of a group, under a program that is culturally unique.
- P-1, 2, or 3 Accompanying Support Personnel: For highly skilled accompanying support personnel coming temporarily as an essential and integral part of the competition or performance of a P-1, 2, or 3. They must perform services that cannot be readily performed by a U.S. worker and that are essential to the success of the performance.
R Religious Workers: For persons coming to the U.S. temporarily to work as a minister, professional in a religious vocation or occupation, or in another religious occupation that relates to a traditional religious function. The person must have been a member of the religious denomination for at least the two years immediately prior to the application date. The petitioning organization must:
- Describe the proposed position and explain how the worker is qualified for it.
- Discuss the arrangements, if any, for salary, benefits, and other compensation. The organization must demonstrate that it can and will provide for all of the worker’s financial and physical needs.
- Provide evidence showing that the U.S. religious organization or any affiliate that will engage the worker’s services is a bona fide nonprofit, religious organization in the U.S. and has been granted (or is eligible for) tax exemption in accordance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
TN Professionals under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): For qualified Canadian and Mexican professionals entering the U.S. temporarily to engage in activities at a professional level in certain occupations designated by NAFTA.
Students and Exchange Visitors
F Academic and Language Students: For academic students who have a foreign residence and no intention of abandoning it, coming to the U.S. to pursue a full course of study at a USCIS-designated school. Must have sufficient financial support to cover expenses in U.S.
J Exchange Visitors: For persons with no intention of abandoning their foreign residence coming to the U.S. to participate in a State Department-designated exchange visitor program in one of the following categories:
- Professor or research scholar
- Short-term scholar
- Non-academic specialist
- Foreign physician
- International visitor
- Government visitor
- Camp counselor
- Au pair
- Summer work/travel for student
A J-1 exchange visitor’s spouse and children may be admitted to the U.S. in J-2 status. A J-2 spouse may be authorized to work in the U.S. upon approval of an application for employment authorization demonstrating that the J-1 exchange visitor will not rely on the J-2 spouse’s U.S. income for subsistence.
M Vocational and Nonacademic Students: For vocational and nonacademic students who have no intention to abandon their foreign residence coming to the U.S. to pursue a full course of study at a USCIS-designated school. Must have sufficient financial support to cover expenses in the U.S.
Q International Cultural Exchange Visitors:
- Q-1: For participants in an international cultural exchange program designed to provide practical training, employment, and sharing of the participants’ native culture. The culture-sharing must take place in a school, museum, business or other establishment where the public is exposed to aspects of a foreign culture as part of a structured program. The cultural component must be essential to the participant’s employment and training and must be designed to exhibit the culture of the participant’s home country. The establishment must have the ability to conduct a responsible program and have the financial ability to remunerate the participant.
- Q-2: For persons from Northern Ireland and 6 bordering counties of Ireland, ages 18 to 35, coming to the U.S. for employment and training with employers pre-approved by the State Department. No new Q-2 visa may be issued after Oct. 1, 2006.
Visitors for Business or Pleasure
B Visitors for Business or Pleasure: For persons having no intention of abandoning their residence abroad who are visiting the U.S. temporarily for business or pleasure. In addition, this classification includes:
- Visa Waiver Program: For persons from designated countries coming to the U.S. as visitors for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Person must have a return ticket to a foreign destination not bordering on the U.S. Such persons are ineligible to change or extend their status in the U.S.
- B-1 in Lieu of H-1: For persons who otherwise would be classifiable in the H-1B category but receive no U.S. salary or remuneration other than an expense allowance or other reimbursement incidental to their temporary stay in the U.S.
- B-1 in Lieu of H-3: For persons who would otherwise be classifiable in the H-3 category but receives no U.S. salary or remuneration other than an expense allowance or other reimbursement incidental to their temporary stay in the U.S.
- Admission of Visitors under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): Canadian and Mexican citizens may also enter the U.S. in B status for purposes of: research and design; growth, manufacture and production; marketing; sales; distribution; after-sales service; and certain general services.
- Servants of U.S. Citizens Residing Abroad: Servants accompanying a returning U.S. citizen who is temporarily assigned to the U.S. or who permanently resides abroad.
- Servants of Foreign Nationals in Nonimmigrant Status: Servants of persons classified in the B, E, F, H, I, J, L, O, P, Q, or R categories, provided the servant can show they have no intent to abandon their foreign residence and have worked for the employer for one year or have an ongoing employment relationship with the employer and one year prior experience as a servant.
Government and International Organization Officials
A Foreign Government Officials: Ambassadors, public ministers, career diplomatic or consular officer or other officials or employees who are (1) accredited by a foreign government recognized by the U.S.; (2) accepted by the State Department; and (3) traveling to the U.S. on behalf of the foreign government to engage solely in official activities.
G Representatives to International Organizations: (1) Members of a permanent mission of a recognized government to an international organization. (2) Representatives of a recognized government traveling to the U.S. temporarily to attend meetings of a designated international organization. (3) Representative of non-recognized or non-member governments. (4) Individual personnel coming to the U.S. to take up an appointment with a designated international organization, including the United Nations. (5) Attendant, servant, or personal employee of person classified in G status.
North American Treaty Alliance (NATO): Officials, employees, and persons associated with NATO, and servants, personal employees, and immediate family members.
N Parents or Children of G-4 Special Immigrants: For the parent of a child who has obtained permanent residence under the G-4 special immigrant provisions, but only until the child reaches his or her 21st birthday. Also, for the child under the age of 21 of a parent who has obtained permanent residence under the G-4 special immigrant provisions or who has been granted an “N” nonimmigrant visa.
Relatives of U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents
K Fiances and Spouses of U.S. Citizens:
- K-1 Fiances of U.S. Citizens: For a person engaged to a U.S. citizen and intending to marry within 90 days of entering the U.S.
- K-2: Children of K-1s
- K-3 Spouses of U.S. Citizens: For spouses of U.S. citizens who have filed a relative petition and who seek to enter the U.S. to await approval of the petition and subsequent lawful permanent resident status.
- K-4: Children of K-3s.
V Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents: For persons who are beneficiaries of a relative petition filed at least 3 years ago (but not after December 21, 2000). Such persons may enter and work in the U.S. and continue to reside here while waiting for the a final decision in their immigration case.
C Transits: For persons in immediate and continuous transit through the U.S.
TWOV: Passengers and crewmembers in immediate and continuous transit through the U.S. without visas.
D Crew Members: For crew members on board a vessel or aircraft landing temporarily and solely in their calling as crew members and to depart from the U.S.
S Alien Witnesses and Informants in Criminal or Terrorist Investigation: Persons who assist U.S. law enforcement to investigate and prosecute crimes and terrorist activities. Application must be filed by a law enforcement agency assuming responsibility for the person until they depart the U.S.
T Victims of Human Trafficking: For victims of severe human trafficking. Must prove they could suffer “extreme hardship involving unusual or severe harm” if returned to their home country. Minors may apply for visas for their parents as well.
U Persons Who Have Suffered Substantial Abuse as a Result of Crimes: For crime victims who have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse flowing from criminal activity. Person must possess information concerning the crime and provide a certification from a federal, state, or local law enforcement official, prosecutor, judge, or authority investigating criminal activity designated in the statute. The certification must state that the person is being, has been or is likely to be helpful to the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
Certain Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), and Palau (sometimes referred to collectively as the Freely Associated States): These former U.S. territories are now independent nations. Under Compacts between those nations and the U.S., certain citizens of those nations are entitled to travel and apply for admission to the U.S. without visas. They may live, study, and work in the U.S. as nonimmigrants for an unlimited length of stay. Note that any person who obtained an FSM or RMI passport pursuant to an investment, passport sale, or similar program is not entitled to any immigration privileges under the Compacts.
Battered Spouses of Certain Nonimmigrants: The dependent spouse of an A, E-3, G, or H nonimmigfrant who (or whose child) has been battered or has been subject to extreme cruelty perpetrated by the principal spouse may be eligible for employment authorization under the Violence Against Women Act. (USCIS issued a draft policy in Dec. 2012, but no final policy has been released).