So you want to enter into the land of opportunity, but don't know which of the visa categories applies to you? Well, don't worry, it's a very common problem since there are literally hundreds of different visa categories, and most people don't know where they fit in that bureaucratic mess. I am here to show you the way.
- The first step is to determine whether you want to apply for a non-immigrant or for an immigrant visa. The difference is pretty simple: People with an immigrant visa are permanently migrating to the United States, and can stay for as long as they would like, though they don't necessarily have citizenship yet. The non-immigrant visa applies for people who are only entering the United States for a set amount of time, and returning to their country of origin after their business in America is finished.
- Immigrant visa. If your intention is to reside permanently in America, then you need to apply for an immigrant visa. Usually there is a long waiting period for people trying to enter the United States as immigrants, but that period varies, depending on your country of citizenship. The United States government places quotas over the number of immigrants from each country every year (some countries with a high number of immigrants have an average waiting period of over 5 years). The immigrant visa is pretty straightforward--no hundreds of categories here--so if this is you, you're ready to go.
- Non-immigrant visa. However, if your intention is to come into America for a specific purpose and for a set amount of time, then you're looking for a non-immigrant visa. There are dozens of different categories for non-immigrant visas, which makes it especially tricky to pinpoint where you stand. The different categories are lettered A through V, and each one has sub-categories as well, such as B-1 and B-2. The main classes of visas are listed below:
The visa types aren't very broad so there's little room for confusion. If you get stuck, the official United States Immigration website will probably be the database you will want to visit. Once you identify where you are in the visa dance, make sure you get informed on the details of your visa and how to proceed from there. Good luck!