A non-immigrant visa (“NIV”) is a visa issued to persons with a permanent residence outside the U.S. but who wish to be in the U.S. on a temporary basis. An NIV is most frequently a tourist, business, student, or specialty worker. An NIV travel document allows a person to the travel to the U.S. during the validity of the NIV for a specific purpose. Individuals who are traveling to the U.S. for a temporary purpose are classified as “non-immigrants,” since they do not intend to remain permanently. Unlike immigrants, non-immigrants are subject to less numerical restrictions and are more likely to obtain waivers of inadmissibility.
Kameli Law Group has the experience to successfully file for any NIV. Nevertheless, the most frequent visas requested by clients are B, F, H-1B, J, L, M, O, P, and U.
B visas are available for non-immigrant visitors for business (B-1) or pleasure (B-2). The applicant must have adequate financial arrangements (including resources for traveling and staying in the U.S.) to carry out the purpose of the visit, and the applicant must intend to leave the U.S. at the end of the temporary stay. In order to obtain a B visa, an individual need only apply with the U.S. consulate or embassy; an application to USCIS is not required. Foreign travelers who are citizens from certain eligible countries may be able to visit the U.S. without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program. It should be noted that an alien entering the U.S. with a B visa must not engage in gainful employment (labor for hire) in the U.S. Additionally, the undertaking of an academic study program is not permitted (with a few limited exceptions).
B-1 Visa: Temporary Visitor for Business
A business visitor will be granted a period of entry sufficient to conduct his or her business. The term business refers to conventions, conferences, consultations, and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature. This does not include local employment or labor for hire. Generally, these visits are approved for less than three months.
B-2 Visa: Temporary Visitor for Pleasure
A non-business visitor usually fall within one of the following categories: (i) tourists; (ii) those visiting friends and family socially; (iii) visitors coming for health/medical purposes; (iv) participants in conventions of social organizations; (v) participants in amateur musical, sports, or similar events with no remuneration; and (vi) persons accompanying B-1 non-immigrants. A majority of B-2 visa holders are authorized for a six month period of stay, however, extensions may be granted.
F-1 Visa: Academic Students
The F-1 Visa allows students to enter the U.S. as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, seminary, conservatory, academic high school, elementary school, or other academic institution or in a language training program. The student must be enrolled in a program or course of study that culminates in a degree, diploma, or certificate, and the school must be authorized by the U.S. government to accept international students. The general criteria for an F-1 Visa includes:
- Applicant must have a foreign residence with no intention of abandoning it;
- Applicant is a bona fide student qualified to pursue a full course of study;
- Applicant will study only at an institution designated by him and approved by in compliance with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (“SEVIS”);
- Applicant seeks to enter the U.S. temporarily and solely for the purpose of pursuing a course of study at an established institution of learning or other recognized place of study in the U.S.; and
- Applicant will not attend a public elementary school or publically funded adult education program, and will not attend a public secondary school unless he or she attends the secondary school for a period not in excess of 12 months and demonstrates that he or she has reimbursed the school board the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of the education.
F-2 Visa: Spouse or Child of F-1 Visa Holder
The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 of an F-1 Visa holder are eligible for F-2 status, and may stay in the US as long as the primary student remains in legal F-1 status. The spouse and unmarried children can apply for F-2 visas, and either accompany or follow to join the F-1 Visa holder in the U.S.
To apply for an F-2 Visa, the F-1 Visa holder should contact his/her school’s international student office and request a new I-20 for the dependents. The F-1 Visa holder will likely be asked to provide documents to demonstrate the relationship, such as marriage certificates and birth certificates. The F-1 Visa holder will also need to show evidence of financial resources sufficient to support his/her family living in the U.S. This may include bank statements, pay stubs, affidavits of support, and family savings in his/her home country. After receiving a new I-20, the F-2 Visa application procedure becomes very similar to applying for an F-1 Visa. The spouse and unmarried children need to make a visa appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate, and bring to the interview all documents mentioned above, plus additional information to support their request for a NIV.
A spouse in F-2 status may not enroll in a full course of study, or engage in any study toward a degree program. An F-2 spouse may, however, take classes that are vocational or recreational in nature, such as part-time study for the purpose of pursuing a hobby or interest. A child in F-2 status is allowed to attend K-12 schools (elementary, middle, or high school). However, to study full-time at post-secondary level, the spouse or unmarried child must change his/her F-2 status to F-1, and may not attend school until the change of status request is approved by the USCIS. It should be noted that after turning 21, a child will lose his or her derivative F-2 visa status and must change to another nonimmigrant status in order to stay in the U.S.
H-1B: Temporary Professionals
The H-1B Visa is granted to foreign nationals with an occupation that requires theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge requiring completion of a specific course of higher education. To be eligible for an H-1B Visa, an applicant must (i) have a minimum of a four-year university degree or equivalent; (ii) be paid at the “prevailing wage,” as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor; and (iii) the job must typically require a minimum four-year university degree or equivalent. Common H-1B occupations include computer professionals, teachers, physicians, engineers, architects, accountants, and health care professionals.
H-1B visas are subject to a numerical cap of 65,000 per fiscal year. In addition, 20,000 persons who obtain advanced degrees from universities in the U.S. have their own H-1B cap. Further, up to 6,800 H-1B visas are reserved for persons who are citizens of Chile and Singapore. USCIS accepts “cap-subject” H-1B petitions from employers each year starting on April 1st. Persons whose H-1B petitions are approved by the USCIS, and change their status or obtain H-1B visas abroad, may commence employment on October 1st.
Petitions are initially approved for up to 3 years but may easily be extended for an additional 3 years. The H-1B visa holder may apply for permanent residency within the U.S. and does not need to maintain a foreign residence during their period of stay. If an application for permanent residency has been submitted in a timely fashion, post-6th year extensions of H-1B status are possible.
H-4: Family Members of H-1B Visa Holder
The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 accompanying H-1B visa holders will be granted an H-4 visa. The 6 year limit for an H-1B also applies to H-4 dependents, but H-4s will get the benefit of any extension the H-1B obtains beyond the 6 years. H-4 Visa holders may not engage in employment in the U.S. but may undertake studies. Further, H-4 Visa holders are able to open bank accounts and hold a driver’s license.
J-1: Exchange Visitor
The goal of the Exchange Visitor (J) NIV category is to foster mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and other countries through educational and cultural exchanges. The J- 1 Exchange Visitor NIV is provided for individuals who are approved to participate in exchange visitor programs in the U.S. An applicant must be accepted for one of the Exchange Visitor Program categories through a designated sponsoring organization. The Exchange Visitor Program is administered by the Office of Exchange Coordination and Designation in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. There are numerous programs, each with their own application requirements, which allow applicants to work, study, teach, train, or research in the U.S.
This visa program is for professors, research scholars, short-term scholars, bona fide trainee or intern, college or university student, teacher, secondary school student, nonacademic specialist, foreign physician, international visitor, government visitor, camp counselor, au pair, or summer student in a travel/work program.
At the conclusion of the program, participants are expected to return to the home countries to utilize the experience and skills they have acquired while in the U.S.
J-2: Family Members of J-1 Visa Holder
The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 accompanying J-1 Visa holders who accompany or later join the J-1 holder in the U.S. can apply for a J-2 Visa. The immigration status of a J-2 Visa ends at the same time as the associated J-1 Visa holder’s status.
L-1: Intracompany Transferee
L-1 visas may be granted to individuals who, within 3 years preceding his/her application for admission, were employed abroad continuously for one year by a parent, branch, affiliate, or subsidiary of the U.S. petitioning company. The individual must seek to enter the U.S. temporarily in order to render his/her services to a branch of the same employer or a parent, affiliate, or subsidiary thereof in a capacity that is managerial, executive, or involves specialized knowledge.
An individual may come to the U.S. to open or be employed in a new office. Generally, the L- 1 is initially approved for a period not to exceed one year, after which the petitioner may demonstrate that he/she is conducting business in a regular, systematic, and continuous provision of goods and/or services by a qualifying organization and does not include the mere presence of an agent or office of the qualifying organization in the U.S. and abroad.
L-1A visas are for those who seek to enter the U.S. to render services in an executive or managerial capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations. Qualified employees entering the U.S. to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. For all L-1A employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of seven years.
L-1B visas are for those who seek to enter the U.S. to render services in a specialized knowledge capacity to a branch of the same employer or one of its qualifying organizations.
Qualified employees entering the U.S. to establish a new office will be allowed a maximum initial stay of one year. All other qualified employees will be allowed a maximum initial stay of three years. For all L-1B employees, requests for extension of stay may be granted in increments of up to an additional two years, until the employee has reached the maximum limit of five years. L-2 Visa The spouse and unmarried minor children of the beneficiary are entitled to L-2 non-immigrant classification, subject to the same period of admission and limits as the beneficiary. Neither the spouse nor any child may accept employment unless he or she has been granted employment authorization.
M-1: Vocational Student
An M-1 visa is a temporary student visa that allows international students to attend an accredited vocational or non-academic school, such as a trade school or practical training school. To qualify for an M-1 visa, the applicant must be enrolled full-time in a vocational or non-academic education program at an approved institution in the US. Applicants are required to demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to support themselves for the duration of their course and that they intend to return to their home country upon completion of their studies. An M-1 visa is usually granted for the duration of the course to a maximum of one year and extensions may be granted. An M-1 visa also entitles the holder to engage in practical training or related temporary employment upon completion of their course.
M-2: Family Members of M-1 Visa Holder
Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age may apply for the applicable derivative visa (M-2 visa) to join their spouse or parent in the U.S. An accompanying spouse cannot accept employment or engage in study without obtaining an appropriate work or student visa, but accompanying children are entitled to attend primary and secondary school in the US.
O-1: Alien with Extraordinary Ability in Sciences, Art, Education, Business, or Athletics
The O-1 visa classification is intended for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business or athletics. To qualify, an applicant must generally have extraordinary ability demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim. Artists and entertainers in the television and motion picture industries are treated somewhat differently, and must demonstrate a record of extraordinary achievement. These objective O-1 requirements mean that applicants must present extensive documentation that demonstrates that they have received recognition of their extraordinary abilities and/or achievements from qualified, objective sources in their occupational field.
O-1 visas are based on a petition filed by a U.S. employer offering a specific job in the U.S. that requires a person of extraordinary ability. The petitioning employer must submit evidence that the prospective employee meets the established O-1 criteria, that the position offered requires an individual of extraordinary ability, and that the individual is coming to the U.S. to continue to work in the area of extraordinary ability. O-1 status may be granted for an initial stay of a maximum of three years, and may be renewed indefinitely in one year increments.
P-1: Internationally Recognized Athlete or Member of Internationally Recognized Entertainment Group
The P-1 visa classification is a temporary nonimmigrant visa available to individuals who are internationally recognized athletes, artists or entertainers. The P-1 visa may be issued to an internationally recognized individual, team or group who wish to compete or perform in the U.S. in an event or competition which has a distinguished reputation, and requires the participation of an individual, team or group that has an international reputation.
A P-1 applicant must demonstrate an internationally recognized reputation by providing a contract (if such contracts are normally executed) and evidence of at least two of the following:
- Participation in a prior season with a major U.S. sports league;
- International competition with a national team;
- Significant participation in U.S. intercollegiate activity in a prior season;
- A written statement from an official of a U.S. sports league or governing body of the sport detailing how the individual or team is internationally recognized;
- A written statement from a member of the sports media or an expert in the field;
- Proof of international rankings; or
- Evidence of a significant honor or award in the sport.
Additionally, the applicant must secure a written advisory opinion from an appropriate labor organization (where one exists) commenting on whether the alien or group is internationally recognized and whether the services the alien or group is coming to perform are appropriate for an internationally recognized athlete or group. In the alternative, the labor organization may submit a “no objection” statement. P-1 visa holders are generally admitted for the duration of a specific competition, event or performance, but may also receive an initial visa valid for a five-year period if they can demonstrate a schedule of services for that period.
P-2: Artist or Entertainer in Reciprocal Exchange Program
The P-2 visa classification applies to an individual who is temporarily coming to the U.S. to perform as an artist or entertainer, individually or as part of a group, under a reciprocal exchange program between an organization in the U.S. and an organization in another country. P-3: Artist or Entertainer in Culturally Unique Program The P-3 visa classification applies to an individual who is coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform, teach, or coach, individually or as part of a group, an art form that is culturally unique.
U-1: Victim of Criminal Activity
The U nonimmigrant status (U visa) is set aside for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of criminal activity. Congress created the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. The legislation was intended to strengthen the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The legislation also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes.