What Is a Nonimmigrant Visa?

Posted by in Immigrants | Updated on August 25, 2022

Visas come in two types: immigrant visas and nonimmigrant visas. Depending on your situation, you may need to obtain one or the other. If you’ve never dealt with visa applications before, you might be wondering “What is a nonimmigrant visa?”

If you’d like to go to the U.S., then you must find out more about nonimmigrant visas and see how they’re different from immigrant visas. Keep reading to discover all the facts about these documents.

What Are Nonimmigrant Visas?

A nonimmigrant visa is a special visa made for people who want to visit the U.S. or stay in the country for a temporary period. It is different from an immigrant visa like a green card, which is meant to allow people to permanently reside in the U.S.

As such, one can use a nonimmigrant visa to come to the U.S. for reasons related to business, tourism, and others. If you desire to move to the U.S. to live and work there, you will need an immigrant visa instead of a nonimmigrant one.

Who Needs a Nonimmigrant Visa?

Anyone who is not a U.S. lawful permanent resident or citizen and wishes to come to the U.S. temporarily will have to obtain a nonimmigrant visa. This will let them enter the country and take care of whatever business they have in the United States.

However, it is important to mention that certain nationals will not need a nonimmigrant visa as long as they stay in the States for less than 90 days and they’re in transit or come for reasons related to business or tourism. This is a program known as the “Visa Waiver Program”.

Individuals from 38 territories and countries can take advantage of this program. Many of them are countries from the European Union.

Another thing to keep in mind is that for the most part, Canadian citizens will not require a visa if they want to enter the U.S. However, they will need one if they wish to invest, study, work or immigrate. The maximum amount of time you can stay in the U.S. per year is 6 months, depending on why you entered the U.S., to begin with.

The Three Types of Nonimmigrant Visas

Nonimmigrant visas come in different types, and they will be issued to foreign nationals depending on why they are visiting the U.S. Here are the main three types:

Work Visas

If you wish to work in the U.S. temporarily, your employer must file a petition for you with the USCIS. Several visas are available for temporary workers, like H1B and H1B1 visas for professional jobs and H2A and H2B for seasonal work.

Then, L1A and L1B visas are meant for individuals who transfer within a multinational company. P1A, P1B, P2, and P3 visas were made for entertainers and artists, while O1 visas are for people with unique talents. Q visas are given to those who take part in international cultural exchanges.

Lastly, C1, D, and C1/D visas are meant for airline employees or ship crewmembers.

Student Visas

Student visas are made for individuals who want to study in the U.S. The F-1 visa is meant for full-time students going to an accredited educational institution. This could be a high school, college, conservatory, or seminary. People with this visa type can only get a job on-campus.

F-2 visas are available for children or spouses of F-1 visa holders, whereas F-3 visas are available for people who live in Mexico or Canada and want to come to the U.S. to study.

M visas are also available for students at either vocational institutions or other accredited institutions. Lastly, people can also get J-1 visas, but only if they are work or study-based exchange visitors. J-1 visa holder dependents can get J-2 visas.

Visitor Visas

Someone who wishes to enter the U.S. for tourism reasons or temporary business will need a visitor visa. Unless your home country is covered by the Visa Waiver program, you will have to get a B-1 or B-2 visa.

Your documents for the application must be sent to the DHS. These documents should explain your travel reasons and your trip itinerary.

The validity of the visa is usually between 3 months and 10 years, depending on where you live. Usually, people can stay in the U.S. for 6 months annually. Extensions can be granted, but they must be applied for 45 days before the visa expires.

How to Apply for a Nonimmigrant Visa

Do you need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa? Well, if that’s the case, you should know how to complete Form DS-160 and then submit it. Afterward, you will have to pay a fee, then schedule an interview. Documentation will also be necessary.

Overall, here are the steps you will go through to apply for nonimmigrant visas:

1. Complete Form DS-160

First things first, you will have to complete Form DS-160. In this document, you must offer specific personal information like your employment and travel history, family member information, and others.

2. Pay the Applicable Visa Fee

A visa fee will also have to be paid for the application. It usually costs $160, but for temporary workers, it’s $190. The fee can be paid when you submit the application form.

Keep in mind that you have to pay to give it to the consulate that is responsible for the visa services or to the consular section at the U.S. embassy.

3. Schedule Your Visa Interview

Next, you must schedule your visa interview with the U.S. embassy or consulate. Make sure that you check through the U.S. Department of State regarding the wait times for appointments.

Ensure that there aren’t any travel restrictions at the moment. How much you will have to wait for the appointment will depend on the particular U.S. Consulate General location you settled for.

4. Collect Your Supporting Documents

You must gather all the supporting documents for your application, such as a passport photograph, valid passport, payment proof, Form DS-160 confirmation page, and an interview appointment letter printout.

Also, some people may have to prove their “nonimmigrant intent”. It means that you must prove that you are in the U.S. temporarily and will go back to your home country after you’re done in the U.S. Good evidence could include home country employment documents, your travel itinerary, and others.

5. Attend Your Visa Interview

It’s time to go to your interview on the scheduled date. You’ll have to get your fingerprints taken and swear under oath. Then, the consular officer will look through your documents and application and will ask you specific questions like why you wish to visit the U.S., how you will pay for your visit, your itinerary, and more.

6. Receive a Decision from the U.S. Embassy

After your interview, you have to wait until the U.S. embassy makes a decision and informs you. If you get your visa, you will be able to travel to the U.S. whenever you want until the visa expires.

Nonimmigrant Visa Validity and Extension

Nonimmigrants can extend their temporary visa before their authorized stay expires. You can do this by filing Form I-539 with the USCIS to extend the period during which you can stay in the States. But first, make sure you are eligible for an extension.

Consequences of Overstaying a Temporary Visa

Overstaying a temporary visa can lead to serious consequences. If discovered, your visa will be revoked and you will be sent back to your home country. When the authorities find out you’ve overstayed the visa, the consequences will depend on how much you’ve overstayed.

You will be unable to get a U.S. visa from any country that isn’t your home country.

Final Thoughts

A nonimmigrant visa is offered to people who want to come to the U.S. temporarily. So, you must apply for the right visa based on why you need to enter the U.S. Check the steps presented in this article to get your own nonimmigrant visa.


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