How To Determine Which U.S. Visa You Qualify For

Where You Fit in the Hundreds of U.S Visa Categories

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:
    • A type: Category for diplomats of foreign countries.

    • B type: Visa type for tourism, B-1 permits tourism for leisure, while the B-2 subcategory permits tourism for business purposes. There are also B-1/B-2 combos.
    • C type: Transit visa type, for people who are traveling through the U.S. to some other destination in another country.
    • D type: Visa for crewmembers of a vessel.
    • E type: Treaty trader/investor visa.
    • F type: Academic student visa, for non-immigrants who desire to study at a college or university.
    • G type: Foreign government officials belonging to an international organization.
    • H type: Guest worker visa. The sub-categories of this type are for the various specific functions of the guest worker.
    • I type: Foreign media representative.
    • J type: Foreign exchange student.
    • K type: Fiance or spouse visa.
    • L type: Intracompany transferee
    • M type: Vocational or language student, or otherwise non-academic student.
    • N type: Relative of a special class immigrant.
    • O type: Extraordinary guests, such as an extraordinary athlete or scientist.
    • P type: Athletes and entertainers.
    • Q type: International cultural exchange visitor.
    • R type: Religious worker or missionary.
    • S type: Witness and/or informant.
    • T type: Specific for victims of human trafficking.
    • U type: Victims of other specific crimes.
    • V type: Spouses and minor children of certain Green Card holders.

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!



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